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There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister's Husband, and He Hanged Himself: Love Stories Paperback – January 29, 2013


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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The length of this collection’s title is in inverse proportion to the brevity of the stories, a contrast neatly reflecting Petrushevskaya’s covert but stinging irony. She won awards and accolades for the fantastic tales in There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby (2009). The scouring realism showcased here in 17 works spanning her long writing life is the narrative mode that made her famous and led to her being banned in her native Russia. These strange, violent, and devastating stories of love warped by poverty, anger, and pain embody the Soviet era’s soul-starving shortages of dignity, shelter, and freedom. Petrushevskaya’s afflicted characters are trapped in wretchedly crowded communal apartments and suffocating family configurations, bereft of privacy, comfort, and hope. Out of misery coalesce the weirdest and most warped of romances, some disastrous, some grotesque, some liberating, while mothers’ love for their children brightens an absurdly cruel world. Petrushevskaya’s phenomenal skill in coaxing radiance from resignation, courage from despair, makes for universal and timeless stories of piercing condemnation, sly humor, profound yearning, and transforming compassion. --Donna Seaman

Review

“Deeply unromantic love stories told frankly, with an elasticity and economy of language, . . . dark, fatalistic humor and bone-deep irony.” —The New York Times Book Review 

“This gem’s exquisite conjugation of doom and disconnect is so depressingly convincing that I laughed out loud. . . . On par with the work of such horror maestros as Edgar Allan Poe.” —Ben Dickinson, Elle

“Petrushevskaya writes instant classics. . . . These, as the title proclaims, are love stories, scored to a totalitarian track.” —The Daily Beast

“Combines the brevity of Lydia Davis with the familial strangleholds of Chekhov. They’re short and brutal, but often elegant in their economy.” —The Onion A.V. Club

“Full of off-kilter, lurid, even violent attempts at connection.” —Flavorwire, 10 of the Most Twisted Short Stories About Love

“Petrushevskaya’s short stories are painfully good.” —Kelly Link, The New York Times Book Review

“Heartbreaking, but . . . also beautiful and touching in describing how, if not love, at least companionship, can save the most lost souls.” —The Rumpus

“These bitter, funny, and often absurd tales of love between unsuspecting men and women paint a bleak picture of Soviet living and the frequent (im)possibilities of love.” —PopMatters

“An important writer . . . Russia’s best-known . . . She’s a much better storyteller than her American counterparts in the seedy surreal. . . . Petrushevskaya’s stories should remind her readers of our own follies, illusions and tenderness.” —Chicago Tribune

“This is romance Russian-style, ‘tough love’ in its most literal sense, yet somehow, its bleakness is more satisfying in its humanity and aesthetic simplicity than the sugary appeal of so many popular love stories.” —Rain Taxi

“Dark and mischievous . . . [Petrushevskaya’s] stories never flinch from harshness, yet also offer odd redemptions . . . comedic brilliance . . . microscopic precision . . . several inimitable, laugh-out-loud paragraphs . . . creepy early-Ian-McEwan style identity disintegrations [and a] formidable way with a character profile. . . . [The translation, by] Anna Summers, [is] starkly elegant, often wry. . . . Summers also provides a sensitive, informative and insightful introduction. . . . Petrushevskaya . . . ensures herself a place high in the roster of unsettling Writers of the Weird.”  —Locus

“Both supremely gritty and realistically life-affirming . . . Full of meaningful, finely crafted detail.” —Publishers Weekly

“Think Chekhov writing from a female perspective. . . . Petrushevskaya’s short stories transform the mundane into the near surreal, pausing only to wink at the absurdity of it all.” —Kirkus Reviews

“This celebrated Russian author is so disquieting that long after Solzhenitsyn had been published in the Soviet Union, her fiction was banned—even though nothing about it screams ‘political’ or ‘dissident’ or anything else. It just screams.” —Elle


“Her suspenseful writing calls to mind the creepiness of Poe and the psychological acuity (and sly irony) of Chekhov.” —More


“The fact that Ludmilla Petrushevskaya is Russia’s premier writer of fiction today proves that the literary tradition that produced Dostoyevsky, Gogol, and Babel is alive and well.” —Taylor Antrim, The Daily Beast


“Her witchy magic foments an unsettling brew of conscience and consequences.” —The New York Times Book Review


“What distinguishes the author is her compression of language, her use of detail and her powerful visual sense.” —Time Out New York


“A master of the Russian short story.” —Olga Grushin, author of The Dream Life of Sukhanov


“There is no other writer who can blend the absurd and the real in such a scary, amazing and wonderful way.” —Lara Vapnyar, author of There Are Jews in My House


“One of the greatest writers in Russia today and a vital force in contemporary world literature.” —Ken Kalfus, author of A Disorder Peculiar to the Country


“A master of the short story form, a kindred spirit to writers like Angela Carter and Yumiko Kurahashi.” —Kelly Link, author of Magic for Beginners and Stranger Things Happen
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (January 29, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143121529
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143121527
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.5 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #288,225 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By saysaah on February 1, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
This month, I was sent review copies of Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles by Ron Currie, Jr. and a book of short stories by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya.

When I looked at the first page of Currie's book I was standing in the doorway between the sunroom and the kitchen munching a piece of bacon. (Yes, I bought bacon, I cooked bacon, I ate bacon.) Janet Maslin (N.Y.Times) had said of Mr. Currie "pays no heed to ordinary narrative convention" and I thought, Oh, good, something innovative with no traceable narrative thread; just what I need to take my mind of my weight.
The other review book they sent was from Russia's acclaimed contemporary fiction writer Ludmilla Petrushevskaya (referred to henceforth as LP) whose previous collection of short stories was titled: There Once Lived A Woman Who Tried To Kill Her Neighbor's Baby." I had the follow up: There Once Lived A Girl Who Seduced Her Sister's Husband And He Hanged Himself. I knew this was the book I wanted to review. First of all - get this - the subtitle is "Love Stories."

If nothing else, these titles parsed out in fairytale language send the message that we're going to find out some truth about human nature and there's going to be no fairytale about it. That's the purpose of good fiction and LP doesn't disappoint. It's the opposite of the horrid sentimentality that imprisons some popular American fiction (except for Jennifer Egan and a few others). Petrushevskaya is telegraphing, we're dark, so what? Get over it but let's look at it. Let's look at it in an allegorical way so you won't be freaked out.

The stories are short. They are about society's losers who are trying to get a foothold in love. They are narrated simply without much dialogue and without any emotional prompting by the author.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Mary Ann Loesch on January 29, 2013
Format: Paperback
I was not familiar with Ms. Petrushevskaya prior to receiving this book, but reading her stories was like hanging out with a Russian Eudora Welty. She captured the gritty and dark quality of life in her country during a time filled with angst, worry, and poverty. Many of these stories are very humorous and easy to relate to, but there are other tales that are sad, heartbreaking, and poignant. Judging from the forward, it would appear that her own life was full of those things and that like so many of us, she writes about what she knows.

One of my favorite stories was called The Goddess Parker. The plot revolves around a male school teacher called A.A. He is looking for privacy but finds himself becoming friendly with an old woman named Alvetina. Through Alvetina, he meets the most important woman in his life and almost loses her. It is a simple story--one we've even heard before--but it's told in such a way that you can't help but want to read it just one more time.

Another story that stood out for me was The Fall. It's about a woman who is the bell of the ball and attracts men by just the way she tosses her hair. Through the use of her feminine wiles, we see her carry on a passionate love affair that both she and the reader know will end badly, but like a car wreck, you just can't seem to look away from it. It feels all too real.

Maybe that's the thing about Ms. Petrushevskaya's stories: they feel like people you know. Their highs, their lows--she does an excellent job of drawing the reader in to her world. That quality is what kept me reading each story.

By the way, these are short tales. I read the whole book in one sitting, but they are engaging enough to read in small spurts, too. The paperback goes on sale today at Amazon!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By M G Heggemann on March 4, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Although carrying the secondary title of "Love Stories", you won't find your usual romantic, flowery love stories. No, the "loves" in most of these stories are loves of convenience, loves of apathy, loves with neither party having any choice in the matter, and even some unrequited love. There are no happy endings, just endings - much like real life.

The characters in these stories treat love as just part of their day, or something that just happens, or something that is required of them.

In short, the love stories in this book are closer to real life than to fiction.

Despite the gloomy sounding description I just gave, I did enjoy the book very much. The translation was, for the most part, very well done, with just a few bits that probably just don't translate that well from the Russian.

The book is something a bit different, and perfect for those who like to have to think a bit about what they read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Patricia VINE VOICE on February 27, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
These "love stories" all occur under Soviet rule and even though the point of the stories is not to explain that kind of life, it does give you an excellent insight into the difficulites - particularly finding a place to live. People live in tiny corners of an apartment - there is no space or privacy. When someone happens to have a good apartment, others are jealous and family attempts to take over. The plots all deal with "love stories" - people finding each other in ridiculous circumstances - married or not - and struggling to find some meaning and happiness in their desperate lives. I found it quite fascinating. I assume a lot of it is tongue-in-cheek but very insightful. It certainly gives an insight into another culture.
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