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Gods of the Steppe Kindle Edition
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|Length: 295 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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Top Customer Reviews
This world is seen through the eyes of Petka, an impoverished 12-year old boy from the little town of Razgulyaevka. He is poor only in worldly goods; his spirit, optimism and zest for life are an immeasurable wealth that others around him do not share. Petka dreams of being a soldier and lives in a near-perpetual fantasy land of constantly battling Hitler's minions or the hated Kwantung Army of the Japanese.
Petka's heart is too big for the town he lives in, and that is the main idea behind the story. He loves his friends and his mama, and he deals with those who wrong him fairly and effectively. Throughout the ups and downs of village life during wartime Petka's optimism remains unshakeable, and it carries him and the ones he loves "all the way to the horizon." This is another of Gelasimov's subtle but powerful works: only when you take the bird's eye view do you see the whole picture.
What I enjoyed about the novel was the realistic portrayal and description of war, as well as Petka's transformation. His transformation is two-fold. First, he's "the bastard" to everyone. His mother had him at an early age, and his family life is disheveled in ways that include war, despair, and substance abuse. But his interactions with the troops and camp guards is reinvigorating. Similarly, after initially being naïve and capricious, some harsh experiences altered his war-time perceptions. Enemies and allies sometimes swap. Family isn't always trustworthy. Safety and danger are often illusions. His interactions with the Japanese POW reminded me initial stages of the tragic friendship formed in Boyne's The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.
The negative of this novel is the delivery. At times it feels disjointed. It's not terribly difficult to follow, particularly for someone engrossed in the tale, but I could see it causing issues for some readers.
Petka is staunchly pro-Soviet (the certainty without understanding of a child), fantasizes about being a soldier, but is an outcast among the other boys due to his status as a bastard. Hirotaro is an introspective, thoughtful Japanese prisoner of war, outcast not only among his captors, but also among his fellow countrymen in the POW camp, even though as a doctor he provides a valuable service to both. The two serve as interesting counterpoints, both in their similar interactions within their own groups and in their differing interactions with the camp guards. When they cross paths with each other, they end up challenging each others' beliefs, but not in a stereotypical feel-good story way.
Some readers may struggle with the inner narrative of the characters that wanders freely from events in the present to seemingly unrelated events in the past, but overall it succeeds at conveying a realistic thought process without resorting to a more Joycean stream of consciousness. It is especially effective for Petka, as a young boy with little structure in his life whose attention can never remain focused in one place for too long.
Some aspects of "Gods of the Steppe" do feel more ragged than Gelasimov's previously translated novels, "Thirst" and "The Lying Year", such as the storyline involving Petka's pet wolf, and the epilogue which ties things together almost too neatly, but these are small detractions from an otherwise enjoyable story.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book bored me to tears. Its premise sounds great, but it does not deliver on the promise that such a thoughtful (at least that is how it is sold) should have had. Read morePublished 22 months ago by Dr. Jones
Although born 20 years after the novel's setting (1945 the closing days of WW2) the author was raised in the largest city in Siberia and absorbed his surroundings and history so... Read morePublished 23 months ago by E. B. MULLIGAN
I finally made it through this book. ONLY because if I start something I have to finish it!! A few times it seemed like a story might develop...but then ... no...nothing. Read morePublished on July 21, 2014 by momocro
The 12 year old hero (anti-hero?) goes through more twists and turns than many of us could even imagine. Read morePublished on July 17, 2014 by Hans Castorp
Wonderful book that does several interesting things at once. Years ago in Middlebury College in Russian class I loved the book Serezha Kalachev. Read morePublished on July 13, 2014 by Amazon Customer
End days of World War II setting in Russia where the Sea urchin of a little boy, Petka, with his ‘adventures’. Read morePublished on June 14, 2014 by Amazon Customer
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