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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Book Review: Russka by Edward Rutherfurd


Russka by Edward Rutherfurd
Unabridged, 39 hr. 57 min.
Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Wanda McCaddon (Narrator)
September 13, 2012

Genre: Family Saga, Historical Fiction

Source: Downloaded from Audible for Personal Collection

“Russka is the story of four families who are divided by ethnicity but united in shaping the destiny of Russia. From a single riverside village situated at one of the country's geographic crossroads, Russia's Slav peasant origins are influenced by the Greco-Iranian, Khazar, Jewish, and Mongol invasions. Unified by this one place, the many cultures blend to form a rich and varied tapestry.

Rutherfurd's grand saga is as multifaceted as Russia itself: harsh yet exotic, proud yet fearful of enemies, steeped in ancient superstitions but always seeking to shape the emerging world. Peter the Great, Ivan the Terrible, Catherine the Great, and Lenin all play their roles in creating and destroying the land and its people.

In Russka, Edward Rutherfurd has transformed the epic history of a great civilization into a human story of flesh and blood.”

Russia is a land with a history that is vast, varied, and lengthy – and Rutherfurd admirably conquers that history in his 960 page, (almost) 40 hour long book. As is the style of Rutherfurd novels, the reader is taken on a historical tour that follows the lives of a few choice families from a cross-section of society. From the early days traveling across Russia’s plains to the post WWII era, the country comes to vivid life. Russia has been a country that has been closed off from much of the world for much of its history – through actions of its own and those of others – making it a land that is rather mysterious to many. Rutherfurd’s writing style makes this region accessible to readers and evokes a feeling of the times.

1,800 years is a lot to cover in a novel, but Rutherfurd hits what appear to be all of the biggest events. There were events that I knew (from history class) as well as those that I did not. Somehow in my listening I seem to have missed the entire section on Catherine the Great, which is a period I am particularly interested in, but rest assured, it is covered!

This novel was everything that I was hoping it would be – making the vague history of Russia accessible and interesting.



When you are spending just shy of 40 hours listening to a novel – the narration becomes excessively important. A 12 hour novel I can deal with a so-so narrator, 40 hours, it’s A LOT harder. The narration wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t compelling. The narrator’s voice had a jarring accent that frequently pulled me out of the flow of the story. It also wasn’t the type of accent that fit with the context of the story – which would have made a little easier to accept, even if it wasn’t pleasing to the ear.

I can’t help but compare the experience of listening to Russka to the experience listening to the other Rutherfurd book I have read, New York. In that case, the narrator was marvelous and I even experienced tears and goosebumps from the combination of great narrative and amazing narration. I was hoping for that experience here and that didn’t quite happen.

Edward Rutherfurd has also written several other historical fiction books: The Princes of Ireland, Rebels of Ireland, The Forest, London, New York, Paris, and Sarum. You can visit Rutherfurd’s website for additional information about these books.

My reviews of other books by this author:

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Here are some choices for purchasing the book: Amazon, B&N, RJ Julia (my fav indie bookstore).


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