"For the first minute or two, I do nothing but luxuriate in the smell of the study. It is my favorite smell in the world, a noble smell..." (page 17) Wow. The way Grushin writes is dazzling, her descriptions mesmerize, the memory of her prose is unforgettable and rich.
Before I had even reached half-way through this book, I went looking for her other two books.
The internationally acclaimed author of "The Dream Life of Sukhanov "now returns to gift us with "Forty Rooms, " which outshines even that prizewinning novel. Totally original in conception and magnificently executed, "Forty Rooms" is mysterious, withholding, and ultimately emotionally devastating. Olga Grushin is dealing with issues of women's identity, of women's choices, that no modern novel has explored so deeply. Forty rooms is a conceit: it proposes that a modern woman will inhabit forty rooms in her lifetime. They form her biography, from childhood to death. For our protagonist, the much-loved child of a late marriage, the first rooms she is aware of as she nears the age of five are those that make up her family's Moscow apartment. We follow this child as she reaches adolescence, leaves home to study in America, and slowly discovers sexual happiness and love. But her hunger for adventure and her longing to be a great poet conspire to kill the affair. She seems to have made her choice. But one day she runs into a college classmate. He is sure of his path through life, and he is protective of her. (He is also a great cook.) They drift into an affair and marriage. What follows are the decades of births and deaths, the celebrations, material accumulations, and home comforts until one day, her children grown and gone, her husband absent, she finds herself alone except for the ghosts of her youth, who have come back to haunt and even taunt her. Compelling and complex, "Forty Rooms" is also profoundly affecting, its ending shattering but true. We know that Mrs. Caldwell (for that is the only name by which we know her) has died. Was it a life well lived? Quite likely. Was it a life complete? Does such a life ever really exist? Life is, after all, full of trade-offs and choices. Who is to say her path was not well taken? It is this ambiguity that is at the heart of this provocative novel.
About the Author
Olga Grushinis a Russian-born award-winning writer whose work has been translated into fifteen languages. Her first novel, "The Dream Life of Sukhanov," won the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Award for First Fiction and for England s Orange Award for New Writers."The New York Times"chose it as a Notable Book of the Year, and both it and her second novel, "The Line, "were among"The Washington Post" s Ten Best Books of the Year (2007, 2010). In 2007, "Granta"named Grushin one of the Best Young American Novelists."Forty Rooms"is her third novel. Grushin was born in Moscow, moved to the United States as a teenager, and now lives outside Washington, D.C., with her two children."
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