RUSSKA by Edward Rutherfurd


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 A well-written, episodic, dense, at times infuriatingly complex historical saga of Russia by the author of the similarly massive Sarum, which tries--often quite successfully--to re-create the evolution of a mysterious and backward nation riddled with war, political confusion, and religious upheaval. Crammed with exhaustive and obviously well-researched historical, geographical, and cultural detail, this epic novel traces Russia's quest for freedom and identity from A.D. 180 to the present. The primary storyline that finally emerges depicts three rival families who have ties in the quintessential village of Russka: the Bobrovs, gentried noblemen who ultimately lose their precious land to the very serfs they once owned; the cunning Suvorins who amass great wealth as merchants and industrialists; and their distant relations the Romanovs, peasant farmers-cum- revolutionaries. Through the intricacies of marriage, accidents of birth, and other twists and turns of fate, the ancestors and descendants of these proud people move from one century to the next, turning up as warring Alans, barbarous Tatars, bloodthirsty Cossacks, and eventually the more familiar Socialists, Bolsheviks, and Marxists. Rutherfurd's immense canvas allows a fictional cast in the hundreds to populate the same world as Genghis Khan, Ivan the Terrible, Catherine the Great, Tolstoy, Voltaire, Pushkin, Lenin, Stalin, Shevchenko, Rasputin, etc., as they grapple with catastrophic events--such as ritual self-immolation, torture by knouting, cholera, and the pogroms. Despite the preponderance of names that repeat themselves from one generation to the next (the plot is littered with very old or very young Arinas and Maryushkas, for example)--a circumstance that may befuddle the casual reader--Rutherfurd's opus extraordinaire may captivate readers of the genre as well as serious history buffs. (Literary Guild Dual Selection for October)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-517-58048-9
Page count: 768pp
Publisher: Crown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1991


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