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A Partial History of Lost Causes: A Novel (edition 2012)

by Jennifer DuBois

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2572844,496 (3.83)20
Member:reluctantm
Title:A Partial History of Lost Causes: A Novel
Authors:Jennifer DuBois
Info:Dial Press Trade Paperback (2012), Paperback, 400 pages
Collections:read in 2013, Read but unowned
Rating:***
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A Partial History of Lost Causes by Jennifer Dubois

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Today chess is often associated with old men in woolen sweaters who lived and loved in the 1940’s. What was once thought of as a prestigious game, is now considered more of a respectable hobby. The computer has replaced the brain as the quickest calculating machine, leaving many games like chess in its quake. This book is about two people and how their relationship with chess has brought them together. The main character is a brilliant man named Aleksandr Bezetov and the book describes the struggles that he endures while living in a chaotic Russia. It is a fascinating story of a brutal time in which people are ruled by the iron hand of the KGB. People are imprisoned and tortured for the tiniest of infractions. Chess is a way to temporary safeguard a position for Aleksandr and his family. It is a way to earn income and bring prestige to his name. However, he soon discovers the horrors that occur in the everyday life of his peers and decides to take action. This book is a journey into the past and a gradual move toward the future. It shares both the career growth of Aleksandr and the second character’s (Irina Ellison) visit to Russia.

I found this book to be a very interesting interpretation of both the political and economic events of Russia. I like how the author used the game of chess as a way to introduce the reader to Putin and a communist Russia. I find that most of what the author wrote about could easily be applied to some major current events of today. I found both Aleksandr to be well thought out and his role to be excellent. He demonstrated how an average and a not so average citizen of Russia was watched and arrested. No one person was protected. I really feel that the book did not even need Irina. I understand that the author was using her to make an important statement to the reader. However, I honestly believe that this book could have stood alone without her. There was ample enough story without her and I really found Aleksandr’s story to be more interesting and often found myself skipping a couple of pages to get to his section. I found Irina to be a little pitiful and boring, while I admired Aleksandr for his persistence in pushing forward. Either way I enjoyed this book immensely and highly recommend it. For those that enjoy a more intellectual read, than this book is a must for you. I advise you to read it when you have ample time to spare or are on vacation. I also would like to thank the author and goodreads since this was given to me in a giveaway. It was much appreciated and I had a great time. ( )
  Jennifer35k | Sep 12, 2014 |
A Russian chess master/political candidate and a young American woman whose lives intersect.
  wcbookclub | Mar 18, 2014 |
Players in the chess game of life
By Laura Lanik on March 23, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Life is like a chess game and A Partial History of Lost Causes is the manual on how to live a life doomed to be interrupted by death. A Partial History of Lost Causes is the story of two unique individuals and their journey through life to a crossroads where their lives intersect.

Alexsandr's character is loosely based on the real life Russian chess champion Garry Kasparov. Alexsandr is the King of the novel who retires from chess and decides to run a losing campaign against Putin. He surrounds himself with pawns who support his political game that is ultimately controlled by Vladimir Putin. Yet he cannot forget the woman he loved in his youth and he is haunted by his friend Ivan's death.

Irina is a thirty something American who is awaiting the onset of Huntington's disease which she inherited from her father. The Queen of the novel, she escapes to Russia after finding a letter her father wrote to Alexsandr. Irina is fighting a losing battle against a horrible illness and she is hoping Alexsandr can answer her father's question and thereby help her go on with her life. She does not know how to live a life that is doomed.

A Partial History of Lost Causes is one meaty, multi-layered story. The novel gives the reader a lot to learn and discuss. Alexsandr and Irina are both lost causes and the theme of the story runs throughout the book. Dubois's writing is beautiful and her descriptions are unique and imaginative.

Every once in a awhile a book comes along that takes place in a part of the world that is part of your own personal history. The history of the book covers an era or a time that you remember being a small part of. A Partial History of Lost Causes takes place in St Petersburg and Moscow, Russia from 1979 to 2008. ( )
  lmbigens | Sep 24, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This is one of the most beautifully written books I've read in a very long time. It's almost hard to believe that it's a first novel but I suppose that's a silly thing to say because even brilliant writers have to have a first novel, right?

I've always had a passing interest in Russian history so I fell right into the story of Aleksandr, former chess great become political activist, and his experience of first the USSR then Russia from the 1980s into the first decade of the 21st century. Equally, I've often wondered how a person with a terminal and debilitating illness might face their fate and Ms DuBois does an admirable job of explicating just such a situation.

There are far more page corners dog-eared in this book than I usually allow myself and all done to keep track of beautiful turns of phrase. If for no other reason I look forward to her second novel due in September and, in the meantime, encourage all readers of literary fiction to try this one, first. ( )
  karen_o | Jul 29, 2013 |
A very smart and mature book written by a first time author. The plot involves Irina Ellison a young lady whose dad becomes becomes intensely interested in a famous Russian chess champion. He decides to write a letter with questions to him but he doesn't get a response. After he passes away Irina decides to go on a quest to Russia to find the answers that her father hoped for. The book is well written and a good insight into the dysfunctional state of modern Russian politics as when the book takes place the chess star as decided to run for president against Vladmir Putin. It is also a testament to a daughter's love for her father. Ms. Dubois is an up and coming author we will be hearing a lot from in the future. ( )
  muddyboy | Jul 4, 2013 |
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Abandoning her life when her father succumbs to Huntington's disease, Massachusetts native Irina discovers an unanswered letter from her father to an internationally renowned chess champion and political dissident, whom she decides to visit in Russia.… (more)

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