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A Simple Soul Paperback – May 22, 2013
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
"I can't say enough about Babenko's amazing power of description especially with his splendidly depicted characters." --Norman Goldman, Bookpleasures.com
About the Author
Vadim Babenko left two "dream" jobs - cutting-edge scientist and high-flying entrepreneur - in order to pursue his lifelong goal to write full-time. Born in the Soviet Union, he earned master's and doctoral degrees from the Moscow Institute of Physics & Technology, Russia's equivalent to MIT. As a scientist at the Soviet Academy of Sciences he became a recognized leader in the area of artificial intelligence. Then he moved to the U.S. and co-founded a high-tech company just outside of Washington, D.C. The business soon skyrocketed, and the next ambitious goal, an IPO on the stock exchange, was realized. But at this peak of success, Vadim dropped everything to set out on the path of a writer and has never looked back. He moved to Europe and, during the next eight years, published five books, including two novels, The Black Pelican and A Simple Soul, which were nominated for Russia's most prestigious literary awards. His third novel, Semmant, initially written in Russian and then translated with the author's active participation, is published exclusively in English.
Find out more at vadimbabenko.com
Top customer reviews
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This novel has everything going for it – interesting plot with not a dull moment in it, great main characters in Elizaveta and Timofey, excellent supporting characters too, fresh and beautiful setting of Russia… There is definitely a touch of classical literature with some longer descriptions that seem like they are going nowhere, but they are here to build atmosphere.
More than anything, I was blown away with fantastic writing by Vadim Babenko. I never heard of the man and I am ashamed of that, I am baffled by how such an excellent wordsmith flew under my radar. His descriptions, sentences, pacing through the whole novel, building and relieving tension, characterizations… Perfections is pouring out from every aspect of this book. I could not put it down, highly recommended. One of the best books I have read in a while.
Several points got me. First, the psychological penetration and the long descriptions appropriate to the country magnitude. Second, the destinies of side characters (there are so many!) which break down the main plot mercilessly - it is almost like Chekhov has thrown a few short stories into the Dostoyevsky-like saga. These are so rich that they can be taken out of the novel and made into self-existing movie scripts. And, third, the specific exposure of humanity in a language that seemed weird until I got that it is a translation of a Slavic narration that has another music to it.
At this point, I feel grateful for the beefy disclosure of Russian idiosyncrasy by someone who obviously knows a lot about it, to the very deep core. But that would be a rude distortion of the true value of Babenko’s worldview who is undoubtedly well-travelled, well-educated, experienced and realistically conscious of human imperfection. He managed to plot likeable and abhorrent heroes who are in no way perfect but therefore credible. The underestimated Elizaveta and the unfeeling Timofey have more depth to them than observable in the first pages and develop quite an adventurous story. You will get to know them very well. So, yes, this is not an easy, sugary read and it took me a while to get used to the tempo.
A Simple Soul takes the reader into the love life of two individuals who left a rocky relationship seven years ago and now try to rekindle the flame based on a lie. The story reads very well and is written clearly with excellent editing. The downsides, if you could call them that, is the slow build up at the beginning of the novel and the challenge of keeping the names straight. At times, formal names as well as nicknames are used for the same character and it becomes a challenge to sort through. However, the slow build at the beginning gives excellent character development the names become clear after they are used several times.
This book opens with Elizaveta Andreyevna walking out of the apartment of her "latest lover" and includes references to experiences occurring. There is very minimal dialogue for the first half of the book. Lots of long sentences that have a wealth of descriptive details, which makes for very slow reading. Elizaveta mentions every shop and stall she passes on her way to work and again after she leaves to go home. Written in the 3rd person, we switch from character to character, which leads to confusion, and sometimes tells what a different person was doing hours before the current event we just read about. Some characters have other names and numerous nicknames throughout, Elizaveta is also referred to as Bestuzheva. To say I'm confused is an understatement, "…she knew she held an entire universe inside her, replete with heavenly bodies. Some of her planets were inhabited, and she could hear the voices of all the countless creatures who lived there."
I'm sure this is a good book but do not put it down, read continuously or you will get lost. This is not one of those books that I couldn't not wait to pick up again, it dragged a lot and lost my interest. Not a Christian book. 2 out of 5 stars.
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