Monday, August 30, 2010

The Russian Dreambook of Color and Flight
by Gina Ochsner

Published: 2009
Pages: 370
Genre: Fantasy?
Tanya carries a notebook wherever she goes, recording her observations and her dreams of finding love and escaping her job at the All-Russia All-Cosmopolitan Museum, a place which holds a fantastic and terrible collection of art knockoffs created using the tools at hand. When the museum’s director hears of a mysterious American group seeking to fund art in Russia, it looks like she might get her chance at a better life, if she can only convince them of the collection’s worth. With the help of her grandmother, friends and the ghost of a man who committed suicide, Tanya tries to turn her life around (from Goodreads).
I hate to say it, but I don't know what to think of this book. I really don't. There were moments of confusion, moments of disgust, moments of appreciation, and moments where I wanted to give up and never think of the book again. I made it to the end, though! My opinion of The Russian Dreambook did miraculously improve during the course of reading it, but I still cannot say that this is a book that will go down in history for me.

The book is written in a format where we alternate point of views. This was a likely source of confusion for me, because all of the characters are somehow related - but their stories stand alone. Even though it was a neat experience to live post-Soviet Russian in the shoes of different people, some of it seemed irrelevant. A waste of time. The characterization was phenomenal, but what good does that serve when it doesn't really matter in the end? At least, that's what it felt like to me. On top of that, there were moments in The Russian Dreambook where I had no idea if the character was in a dream or in real life - the whole book has an atmosphere of darkness, whimsy, and fantasy that was somewhat misleading.

As I said before, these are some of the most honest, raw characters ever. Living in such hard times and poverty, we get to see the most inner and suppressed human emotions and feelings which are so very accurate. I was disgusted by their often crude and brutal behaviours towards each other, but what else can be expected from people living in such a world? Despite all this, I questioned why some of the characters even existed. Many of them felt like mere distractions.

The Russian Dreambook of Color and Flight is one of those books that is probably better the second time around (I hope, at least). In the end I was relatively satisfied with my "literary journey", but I still feel like I missed what Ochsner was trying to accomplish. To me, this was more of a showcase of brilliant characterization rather than a poignant and meaningful book. Looking at it now, it feels as if there's some sort of magical aura surrounding, making me want to love and understand it. Regretfully, that didn't happen.


Melissa said...

I'm sorry you didn't love this book as much as you had hoped. That's always a bit of a let-down, eh? Brilliant, well-thought-out review though :)

Elle said...

The book SOUNDS great, too bad it was disappointing (and annoying :P). I also thought it would have been a whimsical read.

Agree with Melissa though, wonderful review as always! :)

Aths said...

The premise of this book sure sounds interesting, but it's sad that it is a let-down. Books written in alternating points of view confuse me as well, and they aren't my favorite kind of books.

Nymeth said...

This sounds... different for sure :P I'm quite curious to find out what caused you to have so many different reactions as you read!

Emidy (Une Parole) said...

Melissa - Aw, thanks! I thought I would have enjoyed this one, so I'm kind of let down.

Elle - Thank you! It does sound really interesting, and I thought I would like it!

Aths - That's so true. Sometimes it works, but sometimes (like here), it doesn't!

Nymeth - It was really different for sure!

Juju at Tales of said...

Honest raw characters? Great description and review :)

Alison said...

Too bad about the Russian Dreambook. It sounds really good. I'm a sucker for anything Russian.
Alison Can Read

Emidy (Une Parole) said...

Juju - Why thank you!

Alison - It does sound really good! And, to tell you the truth, you might actually like this book. It was different for sure!

Jenny said...

I've read some lately where when I finished I thought "why didn't I like this more?" Sounds like this was one of those for you! Really nice review though, I appreciate the honesty:)