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Synopsis

The Russian Booker Prize winning novel “The Time of Women” tells the story of three old women raising a small mute girl, Suzanna, in a communal apartment in the Soviet Union of the 1960s. Memories of hardship in first cataclysmic half of the century, as well as the loss of their own children, have receded in the background of everyday worries – such as how to preserve flour from one season to the next, or how to afford a wool suit for the 7-year-old girl.

Antonina, a factory worker and single mother, gets a room in a communal apartment that she and her little girl share with three elderly women. All have lost their families and become “grannies” to little Suzanna. She responds to their stories about the Revolution, the early days of the Soviet Union, and the blockade and starvation of World War II by drawing beautiful pictures, but she remains mute. If the authorities find out she will be taken from her home and sent to an institution. When Antonina falls desperately ill, the grannies are faced with the reality of losing the little girl they love – unless a stepfather can be found before it is too late. And in this “time of women”, what they need is just a bit of kindness and cooperation from a man.

The novel features a variety of characters representing a collage of Soviet society, which only seems to be equal and to treat all its citizens alike: the former aristocracy, the intelligentsia, villagers secretly mocking communist ideals while hoping only for God's help, low-level party officials, trade union members ardently loyal to the Soviet Union, factory workers just starting to believe in the benefits of Soviet society and hoping that one day it will actually be possible to have a washing machine at home.

The emotional tension of the book with its complicated narrative structure, transferring the speaking voice from one character to another, has aroused the interest of theater directors: it has been successfully realized as a play by the famous Moscow Sovremennik Theater ("The Contemporary") and the Saint Petersburg Tovstonogov Bolshoi Drama Theater.

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