Joyce: I haven’t had a good snivel sesh at the end of a novel for a while but Petropolis by Anya Ulinich broke the drought. Maybe it was empathy with a dead, frozen and disillusioned librarian that opened my usually cynically rusted floodgates but blub I did … Tell us Jane did you shed a tear or two?
Jane: No I didn’t and I’m trying to think why not. I feel like I’m cold hearted and not very nice now. However, tears aside I loved this book from beginning to end. I have a signed copy from the Reader and Writers festival and will treasure it forever! Did you find Joyce that every character in this novel was fascinating, strangely believable but also weird and alien at the same time? Written by someone else with less talent the characters could have been plain unrealistic and used for cheap jokes, but I wanted to meet them all and have some new best friends.
Joyce: Anya Ulinich read from Petropolis at the Christchurch Festival and so I was prepared for something a little kooky and unusual. Like you Jane I found all the characters intriguing. Sasha Goldberg is pure genius, described on the blurb as the “ultimate outsider”. Sasha is an overweight romantic with a missing father, a dangerously perfectionist mother and a dead-end life in the Siberian city of Asbestos 2. At 14 and desperate for love she meets Aleksey, an art school drop-out whose vodka induced silences she mistakes for hidden depth (well we have all been there). It doesn’t work out, surprise, and Sasha escapes to the US as a Russian Bride in search of her father and a new life.
Jane: Yes, and what a new life. Landing in the middle of Arizona as a new mail order bride was not exactly uplifting for Sasha. I was ready, after reading about the strip malls, heat, smells and the new fiancé, to cheer her on as she leaves for New York in the hope of finding her father. There are a number of great characters to meet along the way, and I did find myself falling for Jake; a young man with Cerebral Palsy and an acerbic wit. The way in which Ulinich managed to describe his unenviable situation, alongside his attractiveness was a highlight for me.
Joyce: Jake is wonderful; sharp, funny and not sorry for himself. A little bit like the novel really, comic, strange but in many way deadly serious. Everyone should read it..really..oh but it might pay to keep some tissues handy.