A murky, dreamlike collage of corporeal escape and sexual fantasy.
Moskovich’s debut novel opens with a mysterious, unexplained room full of “Natashas”—women who’ve abandoned their own names and whose existences are woven through this discontinuous story of two artists. Moskovich writes of Béatrice, a shapely jazz singer who lives with her sister and parents, and César, a Mexican-born actor living in Paris. Béatrice’s body is sexualized from an early age; her family and friends—even her father—tease her, calling her "Miss Monroe” or "Miss Marilyn." This sexualization is echoed by the insertion of chapters about the Natashas, who also exist as both caricatures and sex objects. While César is disappearing dangerously deep into the characters he plays, using the violent back stories he creates for his parts to drive his own courage, Béatrice is visited by a woman named Polina, who tells her, “There are people who leave their bodies and their bodies go on living without them....These people are named Natasha.” Readers looking for a traditional story without gaps will be disappointed, but the mystery surrounding a woman from César’s past and the purpose of the Natashas propels this tale forward. Are the Natashas muses? Prostitutes? An otherworldly entity? Is Béatrice going to become one of them? And how are they connected to her vocal gift? Moskovich’s perspective on language is one of the most interesting parts of this novel. “In Russian, you don’t have to go missing,” she writes. “It’s a single verb. The verb sits next to your name and you’re gone.” At times, the story is hard to follow, but the collective effect of Moskovich’s images is strangely captivating. The novel builds to a somewhat unexpected ending that is, if not satisfying, at least provocative.
Strange and carnal; a riddle of language, the body, and the artistic impulse.