My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Gorokhova’s memoir is, first of all, a good read. She knows how to pace her recollections so that as a reader I cared about what happened next. Her flashbacks are well handled, adroit trips into the past and back again to the current story. One of my favorites was while mushroom hunting, they came to what had been a WWII trench, now overgrown. It led to thoughts on the war, on her family’s experiences in the war, then back to mushrooms.
Another strength was capturing the mental processes of a child in the early portions, the childish logic set against adult logic in such a way that the reader understood far more than the child knowingly reported.
The book provided an interesting peek into one person’s experience of growing up in the USSR, to the system, to dealing with and around the system, to vranyo: we know, they know we know, we know they know we know. Vranyo, along with theatre imagery (made relevant because a sister becomes an actress), and thoughts on the magic of theatre provide major themes throughout the memoir.