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The Museum of Abandoned Secrets by Oksana…
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The Museum of Abandoned Secrets

by Oksana Zabuzhko

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This is a huge, sweeping novel told in straight narrative, dreams, and flashbacks. It is long (750 pages) and intense. It took me three month to read it. The amazing thing was that although it is complicated and covers a vast swath of Ukrainian history and contemporary politics, I never got lost in the many times I put it aside. Every time I picked it up I knew exactly where I had left off, even when I had set it aside for more than a week and read 4 or 5 other books in the interim.

An amazing, rewarding, and essential read. ( )
  seeword | Feb 17, 2015 |
The Museum of Abandoned Secrets by Oksana Zabuzhko is an expertly written book which I cannot praise highly enough. Zabuzhko has created quite a lengthy tome, yet I cannot fathom what could be removed without losing the many threads that weaves together this exquisite Ukrainian book. Having spent time in the former Soviet controlled Ukraine, I was captivated from the very beginning to the last page and found myself longing to return. I highly recommend The Museum of Abandoned Secrets and hope the length of the book will not deter others; it is definitely worth the time. ( )
  knittingmomof3 | Nov 30, 2012 |
The Museum of Abandoned Secrets is a treasure, like an icon wrapped in intricate cloth buried by a mother before a siege. The novel by Oksana Zabuzhko is the story of Ukraine woven from the fabric of individual lives of characters and events from the history of the region. Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe that borders the Russian Federation to the northeast and Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary to the west. Ukraine became an independent nation in 1991 when the Soviet Union dissolved after it endured a long history of occupations, resistance fighting, and civil war. The main characters in the novel are fiercely identified with the country and attempt to find cues in their lives and the history of the land to reach and preserve the richness of their heritage.

Daryna Goshchynska is a television journalist who specializes in biographical portraits of interesting Ukrainians, especially citizens involved in preserving and advancing the culture of her country. An artist, Vladyslava Mutesevych, intrigues Daryna with her collages that the artist calls, Cycle Secrets, made up of fragmentary relics of the lives Ukrainians. The term, "secrets" come from Vladyslava's memories of a game she played with other children of burying pretty displays of colorful objects wrapped in nice material. They would dig them open in subsequent days to see enjoy the beauty of the display, mimicking their mothers' stories of buried icons. Daryna sees the collage relics as cues to her culture that produce strong emotions in her and a desire to uncover linked secrets from the past. She finds a photograph of members of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, resistance fighters, four men and a woman taken in the late 1940s during the occupation of Ukraine by Stalin's forces. Daryna begins research on the woman, Olena Dovgan, and finds many buried secrets of culture in documents and oral histories.

The current political and economic situation in Ukraine interferes with Daryna's professional and personal life, but she persists in her research in preparation for Olena's biography. Daryna's research activities give the reader a realistic view of current daily life in Ukraine. Her personal character is revealed in her love relationship with an antiques dealer, Adrian Ambrozich, the great nephew of Olena. Daryna's research also presents a picture of the legacy of several generations of Ukrainians associated with their resistance to occupation and their willingness to die for their country.

The translation of the novel by Nina Shevchuck-Murray is a tightly woven tapestry with many knots per square centimeter. The thoughts of the main narrator Daryna are described in great detail so that every sentence is an important thread to a complete understanding of her emotions and motivations. Adrian's inner life is also richly woven when the narration switches to him and his nightly dreams. The conversations of the characters are rich with personal revelations and impressions from different viewpoints of Ukrainian history.

I greatly enjoyed reading this lengthy novel (696 pages in my edition) and recommend it to readers who have time to explore the collage presented by Oksana Zabuzhko. A powerful lasting theme nicely created is that Ukarainian women are the informal historians of their culture, the preservers of dreams of generations, and custodians of the iconic hidden secrets. ( )
1 vote GarySeverance | Sep 25, 2012 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Oksana Zabuzhkoprimary authorall editionscalculated
Shevchuk-Murray, NinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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And then came the photos: black and white, faded into a caramel-brown sepia, some printed on that old dense paper with the embossed dappling and white scalloped edges, like the lace collars of school uniforms, all from the pre-Kodak era - the era of the Cold War and nationally manufactured photography supplies (really, nationally manufactured everything) - and yet, the women in the pictures are adorned with the towering mousses of chignons, those stupid constructions of dead and, more often than not, someone else's (ugh) hair.
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In 2003, television journalist Daryna Goshchynska unearths a worn photograph of Olena Dovgan, a member of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army killed in 1947 by Stalin?s secret police. Intrigued by Olena?s story, Daryna sets out to make a documentary of the woman?s extraordinary life and death, and unwittingly opens a door to the past that will change the course of the future. Spanning sixty tumultuous years of contemporary Ukrainian history, this multigenerational saga weaves a dramatic and intricate web of love, sex, friendship, and death. At its center are three disparate women linked by the abandoned secrets of the past, secrets that refuse to stay hidden.… (more)

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