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There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor's Baby: Scary Fairy Tales Paperback – September 29, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
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-James Wood, The New Yorker Book Bench's Best Books of the Year
"Arresting . . . Incantatory . . . Timeless and troubling . . . This exquisite collection [is] vital, eerie and freighted with the moral messages that attend all cautionary tales. . . . [Petrushevskaya] is hailed as one of Russia's best living writers. This slim volume shows why. Again and again, in surprisingly few words, her witchy magic foments an unsettling brew of conscience and consequences."
-The New York Times Book Review
"The book could catch fire in your hands and you'd still try to be turning pages. It's giving me nightmares, in the nicest way possible."
-Jessica Crispin, Bookslut
"Thrillingly strange . . . Brilliantly disturbing . . . 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
"What distinguishes the author is her compression of language, her use of detail and her powerful visual sense. . . . Petrushevskaya is certainly a writer of particular gifts."
-Time Out New York
"Fantastic . . . Spooky, compelling . . . Reading [it] was similar to finding a long-lost friend. . . . I would love to summarize every single story and explain its brilliance, but I'd rather you go out, buy this book, and read it for yourself. It's simply one of the best books I've read in quite some time."
-Jessica Ferri, Bookslut
"Macabre, fantastical doses of reality turned inside out by Soviet oppression, a surreal concoction of a society of 'New Robinson Crusoes' shadow-chasing themselves to the far corners of oblivion, deliciously and wildly told."
-Philip Schulz, The New Yorker Book Bench
"The most attention-grabbing title of the year...Undeniably seductive...Her suspenseful writing calls to mind the creepiness of Poe and the psychological acuity (and sly irony) of Chekhov. And when she goes full-on gruesome...well, Stephen King should watch his back."
"As bleak as Beckett, as astringent as witch hazel, as poetic as your finest private passing moments...There Once Lives a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor's Baby gave me nightmares. 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...If there's any justice, this humble paperback will be greeted as the pinnacle of modern literature that it is -but as Petrushevskaya would be the first to say, to hope for justice is to invite mockery. Better just to keep your head down and write...like this."
"Mysteries, nightmares, magic: these stories are the fever dreams of a nation stricken by public disorder and personal anomie. They establish Ludmilla Petrushevskaya as 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
"Thrilling, delicious, and shuddersome. Lucky readers (I am one) reading Petrushevskaya for the first time will quickly recognize a master of the short story form, a kindred spirit to writers like Angela Carter and Yumiko Kurahashi. This is a feast of a book."
--KELLY LINK, author of Magic for Beginners and Stranger Things Happen
"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 Ther Are Jews in My House and Memoirs of a Muse
"Ludmilla Petrushevskaya's deceptively simple tales unfold in a shadowy borderland between reality and nightmare, between life and death, where saints and witches walk alongside present-day murderers and drunks, where wintry woods and murky basements become matter-of-fact settings for the end of the world and Christ's second coming. This land is dark, haunted, often terrifying; but every ten or fifteen pages one is suddenly blinded by a bright flash of light-- some small act of humanity, some shy movement of soul, a heartbreaking moment of redemption or revelation--and the memory of that miraculous light lingers for days afterward. This is an extraordinary, powerful collection by a master of the Russian short story."
--OLGA GRUSHIN, author of The Dream Life of Sukhanov
Top Customer Reviews
Then suddenly the stories take us out of ordinary existence and into strange, nightmarish worlds, described by the author as "orchards of unusual possibilities."
Some recognizable tropes appear, but the landscape is completely unfamiliar and disconcerting. Instead of a child lost in the woods, we have a father with no children, a husband with no wife. He has no memory of who his family is and yet he keeps searching for them.
"There once lived a father who couldn't find his children. He went everywhere, asked everyone--had his little children come running in here? But whenever people responded with the simplest of questions--'What do they look like?' 'What are their names?' 'Are they boys or girls?'--he didn't know how to answer. He simply knew that his children were somewhere, and he kept looking."
What starts out seemingly as a ghost story, There's Someone in the House, becomes something quite different. Who or what is the woman in the house battling against? A ghost, her daughter or herself?
"...Someone is secretly, soundlessly creeping from room to room. That's how it seems.
The woman doesn't tell anyone about her poltergeist: It's still hiding, not knocking, not causing mischief, not setting anything on fire. The refrigerator isn't hooping around the apartment; the poltergeist isn't chasing her into a corner.Read more ›
I'd definitely recommend this book to fans of Angela Carter of Kelly Link, or a horror buff looking to read something a little more "literary".
If you're looking for something that's just a little creepy, or a light ghost story, this isn't the book for you. These tales are kind of depraved, with real grit and horror. Occasionally, you may find yourself putting the book down and thinking, "What on earth did I just read?"
One thing to keep in mind, though, is that the book has been translated to English. Nothing ever reads quite the same once it's been translated. I don't read Russian well enough to read this book as it was originally written, but when I've read other books in their non-English original languages, they've been much more satisfying. That's why I give this book a slight pass on style. It does feel a little odd in places, but it's hard to say how much of that is because of the language issue.
Every summer, the spirit of Hans Christian Andersen comes alive at the festival that bears his name in Sestri Levante, Italy. Devoted to the performance of modern folk tales, many of which delve into the paranormal, the festival is a place where one might expect to see theater works adapted from Ludmilla Petrushevskaya's urban folk tales. Her stories, like Andersen's, have their source in the classical Greek tradition of "nekyia" which "involve extraordinary situations like near-death experiences and borderline states," ie. "unusual possibilities."
The editors of "There Once Lived a Woman" -- to whom I'm indebted for the explanation of the origin of such tales -- divide the stories into four groups: Songs of the Eastern Slavs," "Allegories," "Requiems," and "Fairy Tales." The editors state that characters in nearly all the stories "depart from physical reality under exceptional circumstances" to the point "where what happens next can only be described allegorically. . .in the form of a parable or fairy tale."
Petrushevskaya, a master of the genre, manages to put the paranormal within easy reach while at the same time calling attention to the bleaker, more squalid aspects of Russian life, particularly for women. "There's Someone in the House", the last story in the "Requiems" group, is a good example. The central character, a "little human roach [left] completely by herself, unprotected," hears things in the house at night, fears the worst, then comes undone in the effort to rid her home of the intruder.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Somehow I ran across this title while looking for new lit reads. It is very dark, with mostly short pieces with an unusual and surprising twist. Read morePublished 14 days ago by Spalding W. Coyote
Interesting book. Enjoyed the stories more after a research paper into Russian culture.Published 2 months ago by Nicole
I can't help but feel the translation isn't doing these stories justice. Clunky to read, diction that actually proves wrong, the English versions of these story seem to hint at a... Read morePublished 10 months ago by Mr. Richard K. Weems
I can honestly say I enjoyed reading this book. I liked it, but I didn't love it.
The stories were certainly creepy as advertised. Read more
Thia authoress has a very interesting writing style, I've only read a little bit so far, but I like it.Published 22 months ago by Robert Wilson
I can't say I "love" this book. It's well written. It's dark. The stories are evocative of Russia in the late Soviet period. Read morePublished on April 18, 2014 by Eric C Schwartz
I must say when a story depletes you, good or bad, the writer is doing something right. needless to say, I am depleted.Published on January 30, 2014 by Starbelle1030
I bought this book because the cover seemed really eerie and I was looking for some horror books in my life just to spice things up a bit. Read morePublished on January 15, 2014 by Tiffanie pirault