The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine

( 5 )


Rosa Achmetowna is the outrageously nasty and wily narrator of this rollicking family saga from the author of Broken Glass Park When she discovers that her seventeen-year-old daughter, “stupid Sulfia,” is pregnant by an unknown man she does everything to thwart the pregnancy, employing a variety of folkloric home remedies. But despite her best efforts the baby, Aminat, is born nine months later at Soviet Birthing Center Number 134. Much to Rosa’s surprise and delight, dark eyed Aminat is a Tartar through and ...

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The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine

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Rosa Achmetowna is the outrageously nasty and wily narrator of this rollicking family saga from the author of Broken Glass Park When she discovers that her seventeen-year-old daughter, “stupid Sulfia,” is pregnant by an unknown man she does everything to thwart the pregnancy, employing a variety of folkloric home remedies. But despite her best efforts the baby, Aminat, is born nine months later at Soviet Birthing Center Number 134. Much to Rosa’s surprise and delight, dark eyed Aminat is a Tartar through and through and instantly becomes the apple of her grandmother’s eye. While her good for nothing husband Kalganow spends his days feeding pigeons and contemplating death at the city park, Rosa wages an epic struggle to wrestle Aminat away from Sulfia, whom she considers a woefully inept mother. When Aminat, now a wild and willful teenager, catches the eye of a sleazy German cookbook writer researching Tartar cuisine, Rosa is quick to broker a deal that will guarantee all three women a passage out of the Soviet Union. But as soon as they are settled in the West, the uproariously dysfunctional ties that bind mother, daughter and grandmother begin to fray.

Told with sly humor and an anthropologist’s eye for detail, The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine is the story of three unforgettable women whose destinies are tangled up in a family dynamic that is at turns hilarious and tragic. In her new novel, Russian-born Alina Bronsky gives readers a moving portrait of the devious limits of the will to survive.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Rosa Achmetowna, the frightening narrator of Bronsky's dark and wily latest (after Broken Glass Park), is a difficult person to like, much less love. She lives in a cramped Soviet apartment with her husband, teenage daughter Sulfia, and a nosy, disagreeable roommate. Brusque, brimming with bile, and ever judgmental, she is less than pleased when the "rather stupid" Sulfia winds up pregnant. Rosa immediately tries a variety of crude home remedies for aborting Sulfia's baby—but nine months later, Aminat, is born. Rosa is fundamentally nasty, yes, but she instantly falls in love with Aminat (who coincidentally bears a striking resemblance to Rosa), tries to wrestle Aminat away from Sulfia, and enjoys watching Aminat grow into a wild, willful thing as Rosa and Sulfia kidnap the little girl back and forth. Rosa's machinations grow increasingly devious until Aminat matures and comes to a crossroads of her own. Rosa is absolutely outrageous, a one-woman wrecking crew with no remorse, an acid tongue, and a conniving opportunist's sense of drive and desperation. Bronsky lands another hit with this hilarious, disturbing, and always irreverent blitz. (May)
A rich, funny and unspeakably delicious novel
The New Yorker
What begins as a cruel comic romp ends as a surprisingly winning story of hardship and resilience.
Los Angeles Times
Bronsky's great gift is humor.
Library Journal
Am I an evil woman?" Rosa Achmetowna asks her long-suffering husband, who immediately begins to choke on a piece of eggplant. Rosa, the matriarch of a Tartar family living in the former Soviet Union, is not exactly evil, but she is a relentlessly interfering and self-centered mother and grandmother and a wildly entertaining (if somewhat unreliable) narrator. Rosa is the star of this second novel by Bronsky (following Broken Glass Park), but it is really the story of three women and the roller-coaster relationship among them before, during, and after an ill-fated move to Germany. Sulfia, the daughter, is a struggling nursing assistant, as selfless as Rosa is selfish; Aminat, the granddaughter, is a temperamental and troubled future reality TV star. The title may scream "chick lit," but this is both a very funny and a very dark black comedy that takes unexpected and increasingly tragic turns. VERDICT Bronsky instinctively understands that the way to a reader's heart is through great characters. Rosa and her family are creations that won't easily be forgotten, and the subtle and complex themes add plenty of flavor. This reviewer is looking forward to whatever she whips up next.—Forest Turner, Suffolk Cty. House of Correction Lib., Boston
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781609450069
  • Publisher: Europa Editions, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 4/26/2011
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 1,374,062
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Alina Bronsky was born in Yekaterinburg, an industrial town at the foot of the Ural Mountains in central Russia. She moved to Germany when she was thirteen. Broken Glass Park, nominated for one of Europe’s most prestigious literary awards, the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize, is her first novel. Alina Bronsky is a pseudonym.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 2, 2011

    Dysfunctional mother/grandmother at large

    I don't usually write reviews, but I had to overcome my hesitation. This book is fabulous, and I wanted everyone who considers reading it to know it is very worth it. Get it now and read it! The characters are great, the storyline is carried by strong writing.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2012

    Fun read

    a unique character, simultaneously outrageous and endearing - our book group will have a good time with this - can't wait to read Bronsky's first book

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2011

    Highly recommended light reading

    A very cleverly written story about survival and self-delusion by a Russian woman who manipulates anyone and everyone yet makes herself the victim. Good fun on the surface but rather pathetic in assessing her life.

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  • Posted July 31, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Battle Hymn of the Tartar Mother

    "I was a fundamentally generous person, and I valued the interchange between generations. Helping support Sulfia in raising my grandchild didn't bother me at all. Neither did drawing Sulfia's attention to her own frequent mistakes. All I ever did was for her to improve herself."

    Perhaps this should be called The Battle Hymn of the Tartar Mother....The narrator of this fast-paced novel is a mother more like Mommie Dearest than June Cleaver. She's actually kind of scary. Yet her witty observations, completely oblivious of her own sinister attitude, makes the reader both laugh and cringe.

    As it begins, Rosalinda is bemoaning her stupid daughter--an ugly thing with no prospects for success and an unplanned pregnancy to boot. She believes in some sort of immaculate conception because she's sure no man would have her hideous offspring. Eventually, the child is born and it's up to Rosalinda to try and create a stable and loving environment away from the child's hapless mother.

    And yet, Bronsky has given us an unreliable narrator, the classic type that makes you begin to question everything about the story. Little hints are thrown out, via Rosalinda's stream-of-consciousness thinking, that tell you more about why she is so difficult. It soon becomes fairly clear that her daughter is not the idiot we're made to envision.

    "I had tried to teach her that nobody should be able to see when you were scared. That nobody should be able to tell when you were uncertain. That you shouldn't show it when you loved someone. And that you smiled with particular affection at someone you hated."

    The story progresses as the three generations of women fight for survival, and Rosalinda's influence is felt everywhere. She really is the story; the characterization of her is full of revealing details. She knows just when to let her hair down (literally) to get her way, and when and what kind of flowers to send for a bribe. She knows that certain events require heels and the fur coat, while at other times her beauty must be downplayed. And she thinks nothing of throwing a boot at her daughter's face to get her way.

    Aminat and Sulfia aren't as fully developed...but really, how could they, given the magnitude of Rosalinda? Another character that is intriguing is Kalganow, Rosalinda's husband, who leaves her after a particularly harrowing cross-examination by her. His presence in the story is at the periphery, but every scene he appears in is priceless.

    In all, the story had me laughing in shock and awe at her atrociousness. Yet it grew tiring too, by the end, as she never seemed to mellow. I still enjoyed it, but I thought that underlining her pushy character was already done and I was convinced. I did like how certain factors that explained her behavior were subtly incorporated without excusing her. This will likely be in my top five fiction titles for the year....and the cover art is just brilliant.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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