Gastronomic delights and culinary abundance are not usually the first things that spring to mind when contemplating Soviet Russia. But Anya von Bremen confirms in this detailed memoir that food (or the lack thereof) underpins much of Soviet political history.
From Lenin through to Gorbachev and the collapse of the USSR, from blini through to borscht, this black humoured story examines Russian life and history through the unique lens of food, cooking and family.
This book was a challenging read for our group. The first few chapters were heavy going, but we persisted and didn't attempt to concentrate on the facts, instead looking for the story amongst the details. We enjoyed learning more about Russian history.
The members of the group were fascinated by the Russian history presented in the book. All enjoyed reading it and it provoked plenty of discussion. We liked the way the food and recipes showed the life of the Russian people, often in difficult times.
After a challenging start, this was an incredible insight into the life, food and politics of Russia through the eyes of the author and her family. A true eye opener!
Most enjoyed the book and liked the personalisation of Soviet history through the medium of cooking and family memoirs...
Mixed response to this one. One member described it as an unrelentingly miserable history interspersed with descriptions of horrible food. Slightly over half the group didn't finish it - which is only the second time that has happened. Those who did finish it enjoyed it, found the characters interesting, the descriptions of the Soviet era fascinating, particularly told from the locals point of view rather than from Westerners looking in, and thought it a well-written book. Possibly not good bed time reading, particularly the first part set in the Stalinist era, which was somewhat disturbing.
There was a wide range of responses to this book. From "a fantastic read, which really connected the personal family history to make sense of the communist era of Russian history through the lens of food, and its role in reflecting social contexts", to the comment that "it jumped around too much". In reality just three of the group completely finished the book, some commenting that it was quite dense to read. Most commented that they were pleased that they had read at least some of the book and gained some thoughtful insights.
The food references were interesting, but some found it a dull and pedestrian memoir. Some loved the way this book told us not only about the food, but also the politics of Russia from 1910 to the present.
We had a lively discussion. Only three loved it, three disliked it and the other six thought it ok. There were interesting experiences and insights to be had, and some people really enjoyed the social and political perspective.
Some enjoyed the book; others didn't get past the first chapter. We found it over-written and too wordy at the beginning which put some off. Those who persevered found it worthwhile.
Our group was once again divided on this read. Three loved it, three found it a struggle and one was ambivalent. Those that struggled found it jumped around too much and the translations in brackets were unhelpful in trying to get into the story.....Overall a dense read, but the historical information was found by all to be very interesting.
A very interesting read - more for the history told through a woman's eyes and the experiences of her convoluted family (sometimes difficult to understand who fitted where!). The food held the narrative loosely together and none of our group felt moved to try the recipes at the end. However the privations suffered by children growing up during successive regimes were very clearly articulated.
A bit ho-hum on this one. The title was one of the better parts of this book. The author left the Soviet Union early in her life so we felt a bit cheated on that score. Overall some really enjoyed and some really didn't. Some even tried the recipes with good results, you'll have to make your own minds up on this one. If you are interested in anything Soviet you could try either of these: Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets by Svetlana Alexievich The Unwomanly Face of War: An Oral History of Women in World War II by Svetlana Alexievich.