When I started conducting interviews for my anthology "The Books That Changed My Life," published in 2016, I was briefly nervous that any person would choose either Holy Writ or Harry Potter. I should not have worried. Of more than 120 subjects, only two chose the same title ("The God of Little Things" by Arundhati Roy) and they chose him for various reasons.

The world contains millions of literary pieces, and all speak in different ways to different people. Sometimes a reader becomes addicted – and at Viv Groskop their addiction is our pleasure. Grosko's new "The Anna-Karenina Embarrassment: Lifetime from Russian Literature" enables us all to share the author's love affair with the famous writers who make up "the Russians" ("the great Russian classics"). "Tolstoy, Turgenev, Pasternak, Chekhov, check them all out, and I'm sorry that only one woman, the august Anna Achmatova, is on her list.

A precursor to the author: "The Russian classics are certainly not the obvious place to look for tips for a happier life." Even readers who have skipped almost all of these writers know from popular culture that "the Russians" tend to Decline, darkness and tormented spirit. Thankfully, Groskop eats it all. She has a master's degree in Russian studies, is fluent in Russian and has lived in the belly of the gloomy literary beast Mother of Russia. When she says lessons can be learned from these novels, narratives, poems, and dramas, she says so with a knowledgeable voice.

She also says it with a passionate voice. In this "self-help memoir," as described by the publisher Abrams, Groskop highlights most of the veils of her life to show us the obsession of her immigrant family with all things British, her uncomfortable visit at her first Russian funeral (they wish, that she brings makeup.) (For the corpse), her unborn love for a Russian rocker and much more. Their ability to relate these events to Russian literature is impressive. Each chapter has a different work and topic. "How not to be the worst enemy" comes from "Eugene Onegin" by Alexander Pushkin; "How to overcome internal conflicts?" From "Crime and Punishment" by Fyodor Dostoevsky, natch – who has more internal conflicts than Raskolnikov?

What takes "The Anna Karenina Fix" to the next level is Grosko's sense of humor or really the esteem for the absurd (see the burial above). Your advice on Patronymikern? "Do not sweat the diminutive." She writes dead pan literary analyzes, such as "Anna Karenina": "Kitty should not end at Vronsky, they would not have been good together." She herself refuses, claiming, "I had become a Gogolian cartoon: one Grotesque, the English country girl who imagines herself more exotic than she really is. "

Groskop is not a grotesque; She is a delight, a readership whose professional and personal experiences have allowed her to write a book that is not only complete in itself, but that also leads to your going to the library and the great works she loves want to visit.

Bethanne Patrickis most recently the editor of "The books that have changed my life: Reflections of 100 authors, actors, musicians and other notables".


Life lessons from Russian literature

From Viv Groskop

Abrams 224 pp. $ 25.


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