They say you can’t judge a book by it’s cover, however, I certainly judged There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister’s Husband, and He Hanged Himself by its title. When I received the novel by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya, I had no idea what it was about. I just knew the book had a great title. Luckily for me, Petrushevskaya’s collection of short love stories was a good, albeit depressing, read.
Most, if not all, of the short stories in this collection revolve around some sort of love. Sometimes it’s the love of a mother, sometimes the love of someone who’s cheating on his wife. The stories, while short, are not really all that predictable. Petrushevskaya manages to surprise her readers with twists and turns in every short story she writes. While the outcome of her stories is not always happy, I think that Petrushevskaya was trying to show how things in life don’t always work out for the best.
The Russian writer really did a good job of capturing different spinets of 17 different lives. While some stories left me more confused than satisfied, I loved reading about people in a different part of the world. I could really feel the emotions that I think Petrushevskaya was trying to express through her characters. The reader can see Petrushevskaya grow and change as a writer and as a person throughout the book.
While I could tell that Petrushevskaya is a talented writer, I think some of the subtleties of her writing were lost in translation. Since I don’t know any Russian, it was hard for me to follow the characters’ names. Also, it was rather difficult to tell if a name was male or female. There was also the issue of some words not translating directly into English. Aside from a small language barrier, I sometimes felt like I wanted more from her stories. I didn’t quite understand the meaning behind a few, and I wanted a little more elaboration.
All-in-all, I would definitely say that Petrushevskaya’s book is a good collection of fast reads. It was nice to come home after work and be able to complete a whole story before bed. I enjoyed reading her stories of struggle, love, and heartbreak. I only wished that there was more to read.
Sarah Emily Lelonek has a BA in English Literature from Kent State University. She is planning on attending Graduate School for English Rhetoric and Composition. She enjoys traveling and gaming while on breaks from working on her novel.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Penguin Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.