Review: There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister’s Husband, and He Hanged Himself: Love Stories by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya

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Title: There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister’s Husband, and He Hanged Himself: Love Stories
Author:  Ludmilla Petrushevskaya
Format:  Paperback and eBook
Publisher: Penguin Group
Pages:  193
ISBN:  978-0143121527
Genre:  Short Stories
Purchase Now: Penguin § Amazon § Barnes & Noble

Stars:  5

About the Book:  Love stories, with a twist: the eagerly awaited follow-up to the great Russian writer’s New York Times bestselling scary fairy tales.

By turns sly and sweet, burlesque and heartbreaking, these realist fables of women looking for love are the stories that Ludmilla Petrushevskaya—who has been compared to Chekhov, Tolstoy, Beckett, Poe, Angela Carter, and even Stephen King—is best known for in Russia.

Here are attempts at human connection, both depraved and sublime, by people across the life span: one-night stands in communal apartments, poignantly awkward couplings, office trysts, schoolgirl crushes, elopements, tentative courtships, and rampant infidelity, shot through with lurid violence, romantic illusion, and surprising tenderness. With the satirical eye of Cindy Sherman, Petrushevskaya blends macabre spectacle with transformative moments of grace and shows just why she is Russia’s preeminent contemporary fiction writer.

Book Review:
The first thing that you will notice is that these are not the pretty fables on which little girls dreams are made: these are tales rich with detail and description about love stories of the real world.  Convenience, anger, arrangement, apathy and even unrequited loves are detailed with direct and detailed language, dark humor and ridiculously twisted circumstances.  A new introduction to the Russian sense of storytelling, in which a happy ending is often little more than fantasy and the author is not obligated to fill your head with fantastical dreams.

Sometimes shocking, certainly more dark and depressing than the secondary title of Love Stories would indicate, Petrushevskaya has a talent for spare and emotionally powerful language that creates visceral reactions to the story, often before the end.  Seventeen entries, each with a tale of the love they see to tell, faerie tales with the hopefulness and wishes, but without the overlay of happy, joyful fantasy but the cold hard reality of real life.

It’s a book that makes you think, effortlessly combining the macabre with the mundane forcing readers to look at the darker side of human nature, it’s there; now deal with it.

I received an eBook copy from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility. 

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