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The Unpossessed City: A Novel Hardcover – October 30, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The (October 30, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594201900
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594201905
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,487,878 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Bestseller Fasman, whose well-received debut, The Geographer's Library (2005), was set in Da Vinci Code territory, takes a compassionate look at the hard truths of modern-day Russia in his absorbing second novel. After a failed romance, 32-year-old Jim Vilatzer is working in his father's Rockville, Md., restaurant, trying to earn enough cash to pay off a $24,000 gambling debt. In an attempt to earn more money, Jim uses his Russian language skills learned in college to get a job in Moscow with the Memory Foundation to interview and record the stories of former political prisoners. A series of interviews draws him into a far-reaching scheme involving the abduction of retired Russian nuclear and biotech scientists. The bio-thriller aspect of the plot provides a loose frame for Fasman's real concerns: Jim's personal, romantic and espionage relationships and, more importantly, the trials and tribulations of the new Russia itself. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Thirtysomething Jim Vilatzer lives at home and works in his parents’ restaurant. He’s going nowhere until gambling debts force him to make a change. He lands a job in Moscow (he grew up speaking Russian to his immigrant grandparents), interviewing survivors of the gulag for a not-for-profit company. His work soon makes him a pawn in a scheme to sell to the highest bidder four of the former USSR’s top weapons engineers, which, in turn, leads him to become a target of Russian state security and the CIA. Fasman (The Geographer’s Library, 2005), weaves two very different plotlines here, one the story of a man discovering a new world and realizing that his roots are more important than he realized, the other tracking the machinations of crooked Russian officials to sell fellow citizens for a profit. The first plot is deftly, even lovingly achieved; Fasman’s Moscow is beautiful, tragic, brutal, and exhilarating. The second story line is convoluted and arcane. But, even so, the sum of the parts in this lyrically written novel is more than enough to keep readers engaged. --Thomas Gaughan

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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One of the best books I've read, period.
D. Wafford
I enjoyed the story, the intrigue, plot twists and especially the descriptions of life in Moscow were riveting.
book listener
This is why it's so disappointing that the story falls flat.
W. Doyle

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Book Lover on May 10, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book reveals Jon Fasman's deep understanding and love of Moscow. While the plot entertains and moves along briskly, it is really his descriptions of the city and its inhabitants that captured and delighted me. Well worth the read!
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By D. Wafford on July 5, 2013
Format: Paperback
I haven't read Fasman's debut novel, but I will after reading this. One of the best books I've ever read in terms of creating realistic atmosphere without tiresomely detailed descriptions, and one of the best I've read in terms of creating characters who seem as rounded, genuine, complex and inconsistent as your friends and neighbors, without resorting to improbable physical traits or behaviors. One of the best books I've read in terms of characters' normal routines inexorably dragging them into precarious situations beyond their control. One of the best books I've read, period. Bravo!
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By myviews on November 13, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I tend to like books that transport you to unfamiliar places through the eyes of characters poised at familiar crossroads, in search of their identity, their roots and their possibilities. Fasman's new novel does just that. The opening chapter set in a Russian prison draws you in immediately with its tension and foreboding tone while the shift to Rockville, Maryland introduces you to Jim Vilatzer, a 32 -year old at odds with himself and his life. The plot moves swiftly and engages you throughout with unexpected twists and turns that make you want to know with increasing urgency how these worlds connect. But what I loved most of all in this book and in Fasman's last, The Geographer's Library, (and for that matter, what will keep me looking forward to whatever he writes next), is the writing itself. This is an author with a gift for immersing you in the locales he writes about, for making you feel as if you are in Moscow traveling alongside Jim, experiencing the city's "unpredictability and toughness" and at the same time, discovering its "unexpected, genuine moments of kindness."
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By rebekkah4 on November 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book was great on a number of levels. As a mystery, the plot was complex and surprising. As a novel, the writing was wonderful, a pleasure to read. And as a lesson about contemporary Russia, this book was fantastic. I feel like I understand more about Russia by reading this novel, in a way that I couldn't just by watching the news or reading non-fiction. This is a beautifully composed, nuanced book with very strong, almost cinematic imagery that makes the story electrifying. 100% recommend this book.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By B. Bartels on December 5, 2008
Format: Hardcover
A droll yet harrowing tale of a rudderless man sucked into the maelstrom that is modern Moscow. If you like John LeCarre but also like happy endings you may like it.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By W. Doyle on July 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This is one of those novels that are disappointing because you get the idea that it could have been better. Fasman does a great job describing a Moscow that is incredibly hard to live in, and yet immensely appealing at the same time. I can't say how accurately he is portraying the real Moscow, but the city he creates is one you could fall in love with and defend to everyone who only sees the dirt and corruption.
This is why it's so disappointing that the story falls flat. It starts with all the pieces but none of them deliver in the end. There is a mystery going on, but it's told initially through a series of chapters involving characters who discuss what they're doing in veiled terms so that the reader never knows what's going on. There's an attempt at a romance for the protagonist, but it's confused with a tease of a relationship with an American embassy worker who seems to get more attractive with every description, though the romantic triangle never pays off.
The worst disappointment is the journey of self discovery undertaken by the main character, known variously as "Jim," "Seamus," or "Dzheem." He's a kind of loser that readers will be familiar with from Fasman's "The Geographer's Library," who takes what might be an "interesting" job as a way of running from his loser life. As a gambler, he is thrilled by the danger of living in Moscow, but he is never really completely at risk because he carries in his pocket an American passport and a return ticket. The morally questionable American diplomats that catch Jim in their web have the opportunity to put this safety net in jeopardy, but the terrible ending of the novel shows them to be just another enabler for Jim's dilettantism.
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