October 31, 2009

Take Me Away...to Russia (Fiction Edition)

Take Me Away Saturday

As a lover of books that take place in different cultures and are about different cultures, Take Me Away is a way to share this love with you, my readers and friends!

Each week I feature a different country or culture (ex. Cherokee, Jewish, etc. that do not have a specific country per se) and list some books that can transport you there. (Note: ex. not necessarily books by a German or an Australian, but books set in Germany or Australia.)

I am keeping a map of the countries we visit and a list of the specific cultures, which you can see at the bottom of this post. Here is a list of where we've been so far:
New Zealand
Peru Vietnam
Triple Threat
Inuit Culture Egypt
Australian Aborigines
Brazil India
Sierra Leone
Sioux Nation
Spain Japan
Haiti Kenya
Norway Taiwan
Turkey Chile

This week we are visiting the country of Russia. Here is an easy to see map of Russia:
For more information on this country, click here.

This week the focus is on Fiction books. Come back next week to see Russia: Nonfiction. Click on the titles of the books below to read reviews and/or purchase the book.

From Russia with Love by Ian Fleming
Every major foreign government organization has a file on British secret agent James Bond. Now, Russia's lethal SMERSH organization has targeted him for elimination. SMERSH has the perfect bait in the irresistible Tatiana Romanova, who lures 007 to Istanbul promising the top-secret Spektor cipher machine. But when Bond walks willingly into the trap, a game of cross and double-cross ensues, with Bond both the stakes and the prize. Publisher: Penguin Group Genre: Thriller

Russka: The Novel of Russia by Edward Rutherford
Spanning 1800 years of Russia's history, people, poltics, and culture, Edward Rurtherford, author of the phenomenally successful SARUM: THE NOVEL OF ENGLAND, tells a grand saga that is as multifaceted as Russia itself. Here is a story of a great civilization made human, played out through the lives of four families who are divided by ethnicity but united in shaping the destiny of their land. Publisher: Random House Genre: Family Saga

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Through the story of the brilliant but conflicted young Raskolnikov and the murder he commits, Fyodor Dostoevsky explores the theme of redemption through suffering. Crime and Punishment put Dostoevsky at the forefront of Russian writers when it appeared in 1866 and is now one of the most famous and influential novels in world literature. The poverty-stricken Raskolnikov, a talented student, devises a theory about extraordinary men being above the law, since in their brilliance they think “new thoughts” and so contribute to society. He then sets out to prove his theory by murdering a vile, cynical old pawnbroker and her sister. The act brings Raskolnikov into contact with his own buried conscience and with two characters — the deeply religious Sonia, who has endured great suffering, and Porfiry, the intelligent and discerning official who is charged with investigating the murder — both of whom compel Raskolnikov to feel the split in his nature. Dostoevsky provides readers with a suspenseful, penetrating psychological analysis that goes beyond the crime — which in the course of the novel demands drastic punishment — to reveal something about the human condition: The more we intellectualize, the more imprisoned we become. Publisher: first published in literary journal The Russian Messenger Genre: Classic Russian Fiction

Tsar: A Thriller (Alex Hawke) by Ted Bell
Alex Hawke fights the leaders of a new and invigorated Russia, where Vladimir Putin has been locked up in a lethal prison built over a massive radioactive waste site. Evil mastermind Count Ivan Korsakov (aka the Dark Rider) is determined to return Mother Russia to her rightful place in the world order by reacquiring her former colonies, after which he intends to conquer Europe and reign as the new tsar. The only thing standing in his way is Hawke, who, as series fans well know, is more than up to the task of thwarting those who try to take over the globe. Life throws Hawke a curve when he finds himself falling in love with the astoundingly beautiful Anastasia, who just happens to be Korsakov's daughter. As always, Bell pulls out all the stops with terrific action scenes, fiendish murders, diabolical villains, dramatic rescues and all the cool weaponry the reader could possibly hope for. Publisher: Atria Genre: Thriller

Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith
If all that Tom Rob Smith had done was to re-create Stalinist Russia, with all its double-speak hypocrisy, he would have written a worthwhile novel. He did so much more than that in Child 44, a frightening, chilling, almost unbelievable horror story about the very worst that Stalin's henchmen could manage. In this worker's paradise, superior in every way to the decadent West, the citizen's needs are met: health care, food, shelter, security. All one must offer in exchange are work and loyalty to the State. Leo Demidov is a believer, a former war hero who loves his country and wants only to serve it well. He puts contradictions out of his mind and carries on. Until something happens that he cannot ignore. A serial killer of children is on the loose, and the State cannot admit it. To admit that such a murderer is committing these crimes is itself a crime against the State. Instead of coming to terms with it, the State's official position is that it is merely coincidental that children have been found dead, perhaps from accidents near the railroad tracks, perhaps from a person deemed insane, or, worse still, homosexual. But why does each victim have his or her stomach excised, a string around the ankle, and a mouth full of dirt? Coincidence? Leo, in disgrace and exiled to a country village, doesn't think so. How can he prove it when he is being pursued like a common criminal himself? He and his wife, Raisa, set out to find the killer. The revelations that follow are jaw-dropping and the suspense doesn't let up. Publisher: Grand Central Publishing Genre: Thriller

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Anna Karenina tells of the doomed love affair between the sensuous and rebellious Anna and the dashing officer, Count Vronsky. Tragedy unfolds as Anna rejects her passionless marriage and must endure the hypocrisies of society. Set against a vast and richly textured canvas of nineteenth-century Russia, the novel's seven major characters create a dynamic imbalance, playing out the contrasts of city and country life and all the variations on love and family happiness. While previous versions have softened the robust, and sometimes shocking, quality of Tolstoy's writing, Pevear and Volokhonsky have produced a translation true to his powerful voice. This award-winning team's authoritative edition also includes an illuminating introduction and explanatory notes. Beautiful, vigorous, and eminently readable, this Anna Karenina will be the definitive text for generations to come. Publisher: first published in literary journal The Russian Messenger Genre: Classic Historical Romance

City of Thieves by David Benioff
Author and screenwriter Benioff follows up The 25th Hour with this hard-to-put-down novel based on his grandfather's stories about surviving WWII in Russia. Having elected to stay in Leningrad during the siege, 17-year-old Lev Beniov is caught looting a German paratrooper's corpse. The penalty for this infraction (and many others) is execution. But when Colonel Grechko confronts Lev and Kolya, a Russian army deserter also facing execution, he spares them on the condition that they acquire a dozen eggs for the colonel's daughter's wedding cake. Their mission exposes them to the most ghoulish acts of the starved populace and takes them behind enemy lines to the Russian countryside. There, Lev and Kolya take on an even more daring objective: to kill the commander of the local occupying German forces. A wry and sympathetic observer of the devastation around him, Lev is an engaging and self-deprecating narrator who finds unexpected reserves of courage at the crucial moment and forms an unlikely friendship with Kolya, a flamboyant ladies' man who is coolly reckless in the face of danger. Benioff blends tense adventure, a bittersweet coming-of-age and an oddly touching buddy narrative to craft a smart crowd-pleaser. Publisher: Plume Genre: Literary Fiction, Political Fiction, Historical Fiction

No Foreign Sky by John Farquhar
An intense and compelling tale of love and war set against the savage backdrop of World War II’s Eastern Front. Paul Heinrich, Olympic athlete and career soldier, leads a Panzer company spearheading Barbarossa, Hitler’s doomed invasion of the Soviet Union. Early victories take him to Kiev, where he falls in love with Vera, a beguiling medical student and Ukrainian nationalist. Leaving her, Paul leads the German army deeper into Russia. Brutal winters and bitter resistance sap the German will and strength. But they press onward—to Stalingrad and disaster. In retreat, Paul witnesses the scope and savagery of the Holocaust and the atrocities committed by his countrymen. As he faces his growing uncertainties and doubts, Paul’s odyssey evokes the full horror and valor of war in the East. Finally, he must search for redemption amid conflicting loyalties to his sacred oath, his moral code, and the woman he loves.
Publisher: iUniverse, Inc. Genre: WWII Fiction

The Red Scarf by Kate Furnivall
Davinsky Labor Camp, Siberia, 1933: Only two things in this wretched place keep Sofia from giving up hope: the prospect of freedom, and the stories told by her friend and fellow prisoner Anna, of a charmed childhood in Petrograd, and her fervent girlhood love for a passionate revolutionary named Vasily. After a perilous escape, Sofia endures months of desolation and hardship. But, clinging to a promise she made to Anna, she subsists on the belief that someday she will track down Vasily. In a remote village, she's nursed back to health by a Gypsy family, and there she finds more than refuge—she also finds Mikhail Pashin, who, her heart tells her, is Vasily in disguise. He's everything she has ever wanted—but he belongs to Anna. After coming this far, Sofia is tantalizingly close to freedom, family—even a future. All that stands in her way is the secret past that could endanger everything she has come to hold dear...
Publisher: Penguin Group Genre: Relationships, Adventure

This is by no means an exhaustive list. There are tons of others out there. Do you want to share fiction recommendations that feature Russia? Or do you want to share other thoughts? Please leave a note in the comments!

Be sure to check back for another trip in books! Here is what is coming up next:

November 7: The country of Russia (Nonfiction Edition)
November 14: The Central American country of Guatemala

The Take Me Away Map of Countries Visited:

Cultures Visited:
Sioux Culture
Australian Aborigines
Inuit Culture


  1. I have 3 of those books, believe it or not. For some reason, I just love books set there. Anna Karenina, I've read three times. Russka and Crime and Punishment I need to get to. Maybe I should put those on my list for December since I plan to read War and Peace then. Great post as always, Rebecca. Have a good weekend.

  2. That's a lot of fiction books dealing with Russia. I do own Russka and I really really have to sit my butt down and finally read it.

  3. If you are interested in the Romanovs, Robert Alexander has three books that you might like: The Kitchen Boy (excellent!), Rasputin's Daughter (havne't read it) and The Romanov Bride (pretty good).

  4. I have to add in everything by Boris Akunin who is wonderful and also R.N. Morris' Porfiry Petrovich series (the detective from Crime and Punishment) -- the first book is The Gentle Axe. They are fantastic!

  5. What a great list! I've read Anna Karenina and Crime and Punishment.

  6. I read a Christian fiction book that took place in Russia a few months ago that was good. It's a great setting!

  7. Love The City of Thieves. I was just talking about something that happened in it again last night; it has really stayed with me.

  8. I loved City of Thieves and there were many more books that you highlighted that I want/need to read!!

  9. Daphne- Thanks for sharing those! I have some books about the Romanovs coming up next week for Nonfiction. I read The Kitchen Boy but couldn't get into it for some reason. I am glad you enjoyed it.

    Kristen M.- Thanks for the recs!

    Heidenkind- Do you happen to recall the name of that book?

  10. Great list! You have an awesome blog! Loved it.


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