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The Gardener from Ochakov by Andrey Kurkov

The Gardener from Ochakov (2011)

by Andrey Kurkov

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Andrey Kurkov is one of my favourite authors so this review might be less useful for anyone that doesn't already love his novel. That said, this is an easy introduction to Kurkov, if you are thinking of trying one of his books or if you have only read Death of a Penguin before.
Igor lives with his mum in a suburb of Kiev and they gain a gardener, recommended by a neighbour, who sleeps in the shed. Stepan the gardener talks to Igor and is shown his tattoo. He takes the image of the tattoo to his best friend and computer whizz Kolyan and they interpret the tattoo, which leads Igor and Stepan to make a trip to Ochakov.
From here things start to get more surreal, as they return from Ochakov with some suitcases of goods from the 1950s, including an old Soviet Police Officers uniform and Igor thinks this is just the thing to wear at Kolyan's retro birthday party. Instead he finds himself in 1957 Ochakov and Igor's life changes as he becomes involved in the two worlds of the present and 1957.
Kurkov uses this wonderful set up to describe how the past and the future and the present have changed and are perceived by Ukrainian people and he does this in a wonderful story that is never clumsy but is always interesting and telling. As the story unfolds, we learn about people's lives in 1957 and the present day and the myths about the past and the hopes of the future.
I was reading this as protesters camped out in Kiev demanding the right to protest and seeking a better democracy, while the state gunned them down. Kurkov is writing about what is hopefully not the only brief trouble-free period in Ukraine's history. Although political in many ways, this is not a novel about the political elite and political decisions, it is a novel about the social and the people.
It is also a marvellously good read. ( )
1 vote Tifi | Feb 21, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Andrey Kurkovprimary authorall editionscalculated
Darragh, Amanda LoveTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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'Ma, your friend's at the gate, and she's got another dodgy man with her!' Igor shouted cheerfully.
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Igor walks along in the old Soviet policeman's uniform, confident that he'll have the best costume at the party. But Igor hasn't gone far before he realises something is wrong. The streets are unusually dark and empty, and the only person to emerge from the shadows runs away from him in terror.… (more)

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