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Soviet Milk by Nora Ikstena

Soviet Milk (2015)

by Nora Ikstena

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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342500,521 (3.8)14
This novel considers the effects of Soviet rule on a single individual. The central character in the story tries to follow her calling as a doctor. But then state steps in. She is deprived first of her professional future, then of her identity and finally of her relationship with her daughter. Banished to a village in the Latvian countryside, her sense of isolation increases. Will she and her daughter be able to return to Riga when political change begins to stir?… (more)



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'Soviet Milk' is an excellent novel that traces the lives of a mother and daughter in Latvia in the second half of the twentieth century. Alternating between their two perspectives, we learn of their hopes and fears as Latvia finds itself under the rule of Soviet Russia. A moving read, and a brilliant introduction to a country with a history worth studying. ( )
  soylentgreen23 | Mar 2, 2019 |
"Soviet Milk" is part of a 12-book series called "Mēs. Latvija, XX gadsimts" (We. Latvia, 20th Century) in which the selected novelists build each work around a year or a period in the late 19th through early 21st centuries in tribute to the 100th Anniversary of Latvian Independence in 2018. One of the other books in the series is Pauls Bankovskis's "18" which has also been translated into English.

Bankovskis' book centred on the 1918 year of independence, whereas "Soviet Milk" centres on the year 1969 which is the birth year of the granddaughter in this multi-generational family saga. Although the original Latvian title "Mātes piens" would literally translate as "Mother's Milk," the title has been tweaked in its English translation to emphasize that it takes place in the midst of the post-World War II era of Soviet occupation during the Cold War.

The story is told in segments that alternate between the voices of a mother and her daughter. There are no identifying tags for the transitions but the pattern and the context for each is quite clear and is not difficult to follow. The mother and her loss of career and hope during the Soviet era is the main theme while both the grandmother and the granddaughter try to keep life going with an eye to the future. The story is not so much about the oppression of the totalitarian state as it is the about the psychological effects of living in that climate and the constant battle to keep up one's spirits and family hopes.

"Soviet Milk" is part of Peirene Press's Home in Exile Series and 50p from the sales of each of their books is donated to Charity. ( )
  alanteder | Apr 20, 2018 |
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a blistering Latvian bestseller ...It’s a bitter history and there’s a sense in Nora Ikstena’s bestselling novel, about women versus the state, of a hard-won creative reckoning.

Running from the end of the second world war to the fall of the Berlin Wall, the novel – Ikstena’s 20th – is narrated in alternating sections by an unnamed mother and daughter. “My milk was bitter: the milk of incomprehension, of extinction. I protected my child from it...This is not a comfortable novel; its determination to make symbolic capital of every event is as relentless as the events themselves are saddening. Yet its powerful evocation of an era that seems almost unimaginable now, but which could all too easily return if Europe fails to defend the hard-won freedoms of its nations, makes it a valuable, even an important one.

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ikstena, Noraprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gailitis, MargitaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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