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A Mountain of Crumbs: A Memoir by Elena…
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A Mountain of Crumbs: A Memoir (edition 2011)

by Elena Gorokhova

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3052336,648 (3.77)24
Member:dpelaez
Title:A Mountain of Crumbs: A Memoir
Authors:Elena Gorokhova
Info:Simon & Schuster (2011), Paperback, 336 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
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A Mountain of Crumbs: A Memoir by Elena Gorokhova

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A memoir of childhood in the Soviet Union from the perspective of 30 years as an emigré in the USA. Starts of well but soon descends into syrupy sentimentality and imagined set pieces designed to illustrate aspects of Soviet life. Far from the Turgenev she felt forced to read. ( )
  Steve38 | Dec 1, 2016 |
This book was even better than I'd expected. Elena Gorokhova writes about her life in this book, about how it was growing up in Russia during the 60's and 70's. She starts by telling a little about her grandparents, uncles and other relatives, and then introduces her self as a baby, as a child unwanted at first by her father.

The imagery is powerful. She describes her apartment and other surroundings, a small 2 room place with cement floors, halls stinking of urine, and bland, plain food. Even though her mother is highly educated, an anatomy professor, this is how they live. And how most others live as well. Long lines of people stand waiting for rolls of toilet paper and bread. There are only 2 kinds of nail polish available anywhere. Anything above and beyond one's basic needs is evil, capitalist, materialist, Western.... and prohibited. Citizens are not allowed to even carry foreign currency. If they are caught carrying foreign money they are arrested. Many books are banned. And new buildings are rickety, w/doorknobs missing and elevators that barely work.

One of my favorite parts of the book was in the beginning , when Lena is taking English lessons. Both Lena and her tutor are baffled by the word "privacy" . They look it up in the dictionary and find synonyms, such as 'isolation', but still the meaning of it eludes them. The concept is not a Russian one. And it is many years before she learns what the meaning and value of it is.

I loved Elena's writing style too. And it was fascinating to me to get an insider's Russian view of America. ( )
  homeschoolmimzi | Nov 28, 2016 |
This was a tender insightful memoir of Elena Gorokhova growing up in 1960's Leningrad. ( )
  pennsylady | Jan 25, 2016 |
This book is well written. aAso, the themes that are raised there are very familiar to me. ( )
  svetlanagrobman | Mar 20, 2015 |
Elena Gorokhova's Mountain of Crumbs could be called an autobiography in short essays. Each self-contained chapter focuses on an aspect of Gorokhova's life (or, in some cases, her family's life) in the former Soviet Union. She studies English in college, complains about her lack of access to consumer goods, and chafes under her mother's "overbearing, protective" stranglehold on her life (p. 1). Not much of note actually happens to Gorokhova, however, until, as a 24-year-old "old maid" (by Soviet standards, anyway), she enters into a marriage of convenience in order to escape her homeland.

Gorokhova's writing is good and her observations about the daily indignities of life in the Soviet Union are revealing. Her account of her mother's family's experiences during the Great Patriotic War (World War II) is particularly moving. But the lack of narrative momentum in the chapters about Gorokhova's own coming-of-age story make this book more of a slog than it should have been. ( )
  akblanchard | Nov 3, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 23 (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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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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