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Russka: The Novel of Russia Paperback – March 1, 2005


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 960 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (March 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345479351
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345479358
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 2.1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (241 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #44,488 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

With his second sprawling historical novel, Rutherfurd moves from his hometown of Salisbury, England, the site of the bestselling Sarum , to the rich foreign soil of Russia. Though the structure and style mirror that of his first saga, Rutherfurd's close observation of Russia's religious and ethnic diversity give this epic a distinctive flavor. Focusing on the changing fortunes of the small town of Russka and its controlling families, Rutherfurd moves from the tribes of the steppes in the second century A.D. through Cossacks, Tatars, Tsars, revolution and Stalin to touch on a contemporary Russian emigre community near New York City. He weaves an expansive tapestry of Russian lore with a vivid exploration of the historical influences on the modern Russian psyche. Though thoroughly researched, the novel is diminished by occasional soap-opera twists in the narrative thread and present-day phrasing ("pin money," "red tape," "heads or tails") used in distracting asides to the reader. Literary Guild selection.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

In his newest novel, Rutherfurd does for Russia what his last novel, Sarum ( LJ 9/15/87), did for England. Focusing on a small farming community in the Russian heartland between the Dnieper and the Don at the edge of the steppes, he traces its growth through its inhabitants from the first Tatar raid on the Slavs through the Cossacks, aristocrats, and an emigre's recent return. These interconnected lives present a vast panoramic portrait of Russia and its history. However, abundance of historic detail, fascinating though it is, intrudes and overwhelms. Transitions from intertwined stories of succeeding generations are abrupt and the reader longs for more character and plot development. Recommended for devotees of James Michener and Sarum . Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/91.
- Cynthia Johnson Whealler, Cary Memorial Lib., Lexington, Mass.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Edward Rutherfurd was born in Salisbury, Wiltshire, and educated at Cambridge University and Stanford University in California. His first book, Sarum was based on the history of Salisbury. London, Russka,The Forest, Dublin and Ireland Awakening all draw on finely researched details of social history. Edward Rutherford has spent much of the last 30 years living in New York and Conneticut. He has an American wife and two American educated children and has served on a New York co-op board.

Customer Reviews

Interesting, informative combined with a good story line.
BEBM
I'd recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, regardless of whether they're interested in Russia.
P. Crockett
This was a good book to learn Russian history through fiction.
richard red

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

206 of 209 people found the following review helpful By P. Crockett on December 31, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
I first picked up Russka, not out of any interest in Russia, but because I'd enjoyed Rutherford's book Sarum and wanted to read more of his books. Russka ended up influencing my life more than any other book I've ever read. Before reading the book I knew nothing about Russia beyond the usual Cold War stereotypes. After reading the book I was so interested that I learned to speak Russian and hope to travel there someday.
In Russka, Rutherford brings history to life in a way his other books (Sarum and London) can't rival. Besides telling a good story with engaging characters, Russka shows how major historical events affected the lives of individuals and how human desires and frailties shaped history. Rutherford doesn't write about "the Bolshevik Revolution" or "Consumer good shortages during the Soviet era", he writes about the ups and downs of individual families living through these events. Russka is first and foremost a story that pulls the reader in. Gaining insight into the Russian mind-set is an unexpected perk.
I'd recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, regardless of whether they're interested in Russia. However, if after you've finished the book you'd like to learn about post-Communist Russia, I recommend Mark Taplin's nonfictional account Open Lands: Travels Through Russia's Once Forbidden Places.
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58 of 60 people found the following review helpful By J R Zullo on August 28, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Reading Rutherfurd brings instantly one other author to mind, the late James Michener. Like Michener (most of his books, at least), Rutherfurd chooses one specific place (London, for example) and, through a series of characters inhabiting that place, he tells the story of a nation, or of a city. In this case, the "place" is the biggest country in the world: Russia, and her neighbours.
Like "Sarum", which tells the hisstory of England, "Russka" is the hisstory of Russia told from the point of view of three families, each occupying a different position in russian society. From the II century, through the tsarist empire and finally the October Revolution, Rutherfurd, in more than 900 pages, was able to provide his readers with the right blend between a well-created fiction with the most important parts of russian history. And yet, I thought this book was shorter than it could be.
Rutherfurd's style sometimes leave the reader tired. Some of his sentences are a little too prosaic for the kind of fiction he's intended to write. He abuses the right to use the word "For" (as in "For Nicolai was the greatest poet in Ukraine") to begin a phrase. One other problem I found was concerning the division of the book. The part I expected the most was the Revolution. I was satisfied when I read it. It's well written, interesting and holds the attention of the reader. In fact, the Revolution is the climax of russian history (at least in my opinion, I'm not russian and I really don't know that much about russian history), and the author does a good job in building the tension and creating a very "russian" atmosphere in the previous chapters before the revolution. But the problem is that, after 1917, the book ends.
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66 of 71 people found the following review helpful By BM on August 2, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Though this is a long read (not to be undertaken in one sitting---at least by those without some background in the region/culture) it is well worth it should you wish to cultivate an understanding of Russia & Eastern Europe. The novel is very true to historical detail, and although many of its characters are of course fictionalized, Rutherford has clearly gone to painstaking lengths to remain historically correct---far moreso than most "historical" novels. Reading "Russka" will leave you with a true sense of a people and how they have evolved historically & culturally over the span of centuries. I am a professor & I used this book with one of my classes as assigned reading, with sections of "Russka" paired with corresponding sections of a Russian history book with truly wonderful results---rather than griping about the reading load as usual, most students loved the book and via the novel & the pairing with the text, they seemed to learn a great deal.

Addendum (Feb 16). Those folks who have criticised the book should perhaps view the book in the right light. It is not intended to be nor should it be used as a text book or scholarly treatise---though it would be a wonderful and creative suppliment for the latter. It is a very well crafted and meticulously well researched historical NOVEL and in accuracy of detail it is far superior to most (e.g. some of Michener's "historical" novels contain egregious innacuracies)
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By "jochrid" on August 4, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This was my first book by Rutherford, read even before SARUM. I've been mildly interested in Russia for a while, and I was intrigued to see the book...but to be honest, didn't expect much. I was very wrong. The book follows the families that spring from two characters in the first chapter...the curious peasant child Kiy, and a wild tribesman called only The Alan, moved by mercy to part with his most prized possession. Throughout the novel, each chapter is set in a different time period, showing how the descendants of these two characters rise and fall throughout the periods of the Princes of Kiev, the rise of Moscow, Czar Ivan the Terrrible, Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, the Bolshevic Revolution, and, finally, into Post-Communist Russia. The book tempers its awesome span with characters that seem to leap living and breathing from the pages, and to my delight,I noticed that some seem loosly based on characters from Russian folklore. The book is rife with all kinds of people: nobles, serfs, industrialists, Cosacks, poets, freedom fighters, and villains, but essentially human beings. Excellent book.
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