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A Mountain of Crumbs: A Memoir (edition 2011)

by Elena Gorokhova

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2431847,405 (3.79)20
Member:dpelaez
Title:A Mountain of Crumbs: A Memoir
Authors:Elena Gorokhova
Info:Simon & Schuster (2011), Paperback, 336 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:None

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A Mountain of Crumbs: A Memoir by Elena Gorokhova

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Most readers who loved this book wanted to read more of her story.

Elena tells about coming to America at her website:

http://elenagorokhova.com/

With the eloquence of a master story teller, Elena has shared intimately and generously her memories and her soul. Her memoir is a revealing story which is poignant and funny, painful and powerful ~ a story of growing up and coming of age under the oppression of the USSR. Even though she tells of life strangled and dreams stifled under communist control, deception and deprivation, she also speaks of the appreciation for life's simpler pleasures in the face of adversity ~ for family, for language, for poetry, for art.





( )
  FAR2MANYBOOKS | Apr 5, 2014 |
Most readers who loved this book wanted to read more of her story.

Elena tells about coming to America at her website:

http://elenagorokhova.com/

With the eloquence of a master story teller, Elena has shared intimately and generously her memories and her soul. Her memoir is a revealing story which is poignant and funny, painful and powerful ~ a story of growing up and coming of age under the oppression of the USSR. Even though she tells of life strangled and dreams stifled under communist control, deception and deprivation, she also speaks of the appreciation for life's simpler pleasures in the face of adversity ~ for family, for language, for poetry, for art.





( )
  FAR2MANYBOOKS | Apr 5, 2014 |
I love the voice of this author, you can tell everything comes directly from her heart. She wrote about her and her family's life, during the communist rule in Russia. I'm not a stranger to this kind of political system, being Chinese myself. Elena Gorokhova was born in the 1950's in Leningrad and eventually married an American and moved to the US. Even though English is her second language, her characters are described and written in such details that make them practically jump out of the page. The book is structured somewhat chronically with each chapter centered around a specific incident or period in her life, for example: her fascination with English, her sister's struggle to choose a college major in her own will without angering her parents, being a tour guide to a British visitor, her primary and secondary education, why her mom never smiled....

I intentionally slowed down near the last 1/3 of her story, to slowly savour her writing, her word use, her wit and even her humor. How she could inject those sad moments of her life with a sense of hope and fun. This is what she wrote when she was given a tour to a young British student when she was in middle school, and the boy took a picture illegally, pretending his was just playing with the camera:

"He thinks he is a genius, having come up with such a brilliantly distracting maneuver, but in the area of pretense no British student can compete with our decades of daily practice."

and of her own government:

"The rules are simple: they lie to us, we know they’re lying, they know we know they’re lying but they keep lying anyway, and we keep pretending to believe them."

I don't re-read books very often, but I may have to re-read this one someday down the line since I know I sure will find new and insightful meanings in each of her carefully crafted sentence...
( )
  lovestampmom | Aug 8, 2013 |
When I bought this book, it looked like a great read. One from which I could learn how life was for a child in the early days of the Soviet Union, what might even explain the difference between people 'from there' and people 'from here'.

I have no idea why it took me so long to start reading it. I guess there was always a book, and another one creeping before in line. When I noticed it on a fellow crosser's wishlist, I decided to read it and send it there.

Wow, what a book. It did exactly what I expected of it, and more: the story started not from the moment that the author remembers things, but earlier, in the time that her own mother was young (and foolish). It explained a great deal about how her family worked, made clear that the family changed along with the changes in society.

This book brought back memories of unfriendly cashiers, silly ways of paying in stores, empty shops, clothes & shoes that were all looking the same, the smell of mothballs, soup and bread with nearly every meal. But most of all it gave again insight in 'chuzhie' and 'svoi', how they have different brains, different ways of thinking.
It is a strange way of saying it, but I completely agree with the author: people growing up behind the iron curtain have 'a different brain' which says it all.

A great memoir, a joy to read and highly recommended to all interested in culture, coming of age, foreign customs and habits. ( )
  BoekenTrol71 | May 17, 2013 |
In this memoir, we see what life was like for a "baby boomer" in Russia. The author talks about her childhood, and her life as a university student and young adult. Very well written and interesting, this book helped me to understand life in Russia.

Elena studied English, and from a young age, questioned what she was told: that a "hero" turned his father in for storing enough grain to feed his family that life in the West is decadent and evil, that there is no point in trying to make things better. At times funny, at times inspiring, this is worth reading. ( )
  LynnB | Apr 26, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
“A Mountain of Crumbs” has enough insight and wistful comedy to keep you turning the pages, but I wanted more from it — more incident, more drama, more straight talk. Its details might have formed the background of a delicious, and more robust, novel. Sometimes memoir can only take you so far.
 
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For my mother, Galina Konstantinovna Maltseva
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I wish my mother had come from Leningrad, from the world of Pushkin and the tsars, of granite embankments and lack ironwork, of pearly domes buttressing the low sky.
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Book description
A Mountain of Crumbs is the moving story of a young Soviet girl's discovery of the hidden truths of adulthood and her country's profound political deception.

Elena, born with a desire to explore the world beyond her borders, finds her passion in the complexity of the English language - but in the Soviet Union of the 1960s, such a passion verges on the subversive. Elena's home is no longer the majestic Russia of literature or the tsars. Instead, it is a nation humiliated by its first faltering steps after World War II, putting up appearances for the sake of its regime and fighting to retain its pride.

In this deeply affecting memoir, Elena re-creates the world that both oppressed and inspired her. She recounts stories passed down to her about the horrors of the Bolshevik Revolution and probes the daily deprivations and small joys of her family's bunkerlike existence. Through Elena's captivating voice, we learn not only the personal story of Russia in the second half of the twentieth century, but also the story of one rebellious citizen whose love of a foreign language finally transports her to a new world.
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Elena Gorokhova grows up in 1960's Leningrad where she discovers that beauty and passion can be found in unexpected places in Soviet Russia.

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