There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister's Husband, and He Hanged Himself: Love Stories

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Overview

Love stories, with a twist: the eagerly awaited follow-up to the great Russian writer’s New York Times bestselling scary fairy tales

By turns sly and sweet, burlesque and heartbreaking, these realist fables of women looking for love are the stories that Ludmilla Petrushevskaya—who has been compared to Chekhov, Tolstoy, Beckett, Poe, Angela Carter, and even Stephen King—is best known for in Russia.

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There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister's Husband, and He Hanged Himself: Love Stories

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Overview

Love stories, with a twist: the eagerly awaited follow-up to the great Russian writer’s New York Times bestselling scary fairy tales

By turns sly and sweet, burlesque and heartbreaking, these realist fables of women looking for love are the stories that Ludmilla Petrushevskaya—who has been compared to Chekhov, Tolstoy, Beckett, Poe, Angela Carter, and even Stephen King—is best known for in Russia.

Here are attempts at human connection, both depraved and sublime, by people across the life span: one-night stands in communal apartments, poignantly awkward couplings, office trysts, schoolgirl crushes, elopements, tentative courtships, and rampant infidelity, shot through with lurid violence, romantic illusion, and surprising tenderness. With the satirical eye of Cindy Sherman, Petrushevskaya blends macabre spectacle with transformative moments of grace and shows just why she is Russia’s preeminent contemporary fiction writer.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Elissa Schappell
They are deeply unromantic love stories told frankly, with an elasticity and economy of language…A few stories capture a character in a Chekhovian moment of clarity; some read like family lore, recounted without fanfare or urgency; others echo the gossip women exchange like currency. What is consistent is the dark, fatalistic humor and bone-deep irony Petrushevskaya's characters employ as protection against the biting cold of loneliness and misfortune that seems their birthright.
Publishers Weekly
Full of meaningful, finely crafted detail, this story collection set in Russia manages to tackle the grimmest of situations head-on with compassion and a great deal of warmth. In “Two Deities” a one-night stand between a woman in her mid-30s and a man of 20 results in pregnancy and the decision to raise the child together. The troubled “Alibaba” sells her mother’s rare books to get money for drinks and longs to find a man who doesn’t live with his mother or wife, so that she might stay the night. In “Tamara’s Baby” a man named “A.A.” who makes life miserable for his friends by always dropping by unannounced finds contentment with an older woman he meets at a health resort for the indigent. Dasha, in “The Impulse,” shaves her head and ignores her son, who subsists on a diet of ice cream and frozen pizza, because of the stress of her relationship with a married man. The author does a wonderful job evoking the world of shared apartments and heavy drinking, where to get from a village to the capital “one had to ride the train for seven days, then a bus for thirty-six hours, then another bus, which sometimes didn’t run, for seven more.” However cruel the characters are to each other and to themselves, the author is always fair, broadminded, and even loving toward them, making this book both supremely gritty and realistically life-affirming. (Feb.)
Kirkus Reviews
Petrushevskaya's (There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor's Baby, 2009) short stories transform the mundane into the near surreal, pausing only to wink at the absurdity of it all. The literary collection opens with an informed and knowledgeable introduction by translator Summers, a literary editor born in Moscow. Petrushevskaya, first celebrated as a journalist and a playwright with her prose only published after glasnost, here writes of characters, women most eloquently, mired in environs so dull as to focus their attention toward drink, sex and, most critical of all, a decent apartment in which to live. In "A Murky Fate," a lonely spinster pleads with her mother for privacy to entertain a lover; "insensitive and crude," yet an assignation that brings fulfillment. In "The Goddess Parka," a penniless provincial schoolteacher is seduced by his vacation landlord's distant cousin. "Like Penelope" chronicles an alliance between Oksana, "a girl beloved by her mother but no one else," and Mischa, whose hand-me-downs Oksana wore. In "Two Deities," an older woman and young man contemplate their son, the product of a "few minutes of half-naked passion on the cramped kitchen sofa." The most unconventional is "Hallelujah, Family!" four lives laid out in a list of the 45 notes. Then comes "Give Her to Me," about a struggling composer and lyricist but beyond the starving artist cliché. In "Milgrom," a Lithuanian beauty is robbed of her son. The four concluding stories are "The Adventures of Vera," "Ero's Way," "Young Berries" and "A Happy Ending," where an STD infects a marriage with hate. In these tales of pessimism and gloom, stoicism and resolution, life real and life absurd, Petrushevskaya delivers 17 stories in four groups, many of them cold, dark and vodka-drenched; some rampant with alcoholism and cruelty; and nearly all struggling in contemplation of soul-damaged men and maternal women. Think Chekhov writing from a female perspective, burnished by the ennui of a soulless collectivist state, contemplating the influence of culture and politics on love and relationships.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143121527
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 1/29/2013
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 605,350
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.60 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Ludmilla Petrushevskaya was born in 1938 in Moscow, where she still lives. She is the author of more than fifteen collections of prose, including the New York Times bestseller There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor's Baby: Scary Fairy Tales (2009), which won a World Fantasy Award and was one of New York magazine's Ten Best Books of the Year and one of NPR's Five Best Works of Foreign Fiction, and There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister's Husband, and He Hanged Himself: Love Stories (2013). A singular force in modern Russian fiction, she is also a playwright whose work has been staged by leading theater companies all over the world. In 2002 she received Russia's most prestigious prize, the Triumph, for lifetime achievement.

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Table of Contents

Introduction ix

A Murky Fate

A Murky Fate 3

The Fall 7

The Goddess Parka 11

Like Penélope 23

Ali-Baba 37

Hallelujah, Family!

Two Deities 45

Father and Mother 53

The Impulse 59

Hallelujah, Family! 65

My Little One

Give Her to Me 77

Milgrom 93

The Story of Clarissa 103

Tamara's Baby 109

A Happy Ending

Young Berries 121

The Adventures of Vera 133

Eros's Way 143

A Happy Ending 161

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 4 )
Rating Distribution

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(1)

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 29, 2013

    I was not familiar with Ms. Petrushevskaya prior to receiving th

    I was not familiar with Ms. Petrushevskaya prior to receiving this book, but reading her stories was like hanging out with a Russian Eudora Welty. She captured the gritty and dark quality of life in her country during a time filled with angst, worry, and poverty. Many of these stories are very humorous and easy to relate to, but there are other tales that are sad, heartbreaking, and poignant. Judging from the forward, it would appear that her own life was full of those things and that like so many of us, she writes about what she knows.
    One of my favorite stories was called The Goddess Parker. The plot revolves around a male school teacher called A.A. He is looking for privacy but finds himself becoming friendly with an old woman named Alvetina. Through Alvetina, he meets the most important woman in his life and almost loses her. It is a simple story--one we've even heard before--but it's told in such a way that you can't help but want to read it just one more time.
    Another story that stood out for me was The Fall. It's about a woman who is the bell of the ball and attracts men by just the way she tosses her hair. Through the use of her feminine wiles, we see her carry on a passionate love affair that both she and the reader know will end badly, but like a car wreck, you just can't seem to look away from it. It feels all too real.
    Maybe that's the thing about Ms. Petrushevskaya's stories: they feel like people you know. Their highs, their lows--she does an excellent job of drawing the reader in to her world. That quality is what kept me reading each story.
    By the way, these are short tales. I read the whole book in one sitting, but they are engaging enough to read in small spurts, too. The paperback goes on sale today at Amazon!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 19, 2013

    A Thousand Personalities

    A collection of quick introductions and even quicker closures. The stories bring in characters with such brief introductions but Ludmilla amazes me with her ability to make that person known to me with but a single sentence about them. This is not a novel that spends the whole novel explaining the nature of each character, but instead it is quick and agile interplay between so many people at once. And from a Russian perspective! With each short story I read in this book, I come out knowing everyone in the neighborhood. But I cannot give it five stars; only four. Sometimes I need a little slower of a story; that is to say, with more explanation. I'd love the stories to last a little longer.

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  • Posted March 12, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    The first thing that you will notice is that these are not the p

    The first thing that you will notice is that these are not the pretty fables on which little girls dreams are made: these are tales rich with detail and description about love stories of the real world.  Convenience, anger, arrangement, apathy and even unrequited loves are detailed with direct and detailed language, dark humor and ridiculously twisted circumstances.  A new introduction to the Russian sense of storytelling, in which a happy ending is often little more than fantasy and the author is not obligated to fill your head with fantastical dreams.  




    Sometimes shocking, certainly more dark and depressing than the secondary title of Love Stories would indicate, Petrushevskaya has a talent for spare and emotionally powerful language that creates visceral reactions to the story, often before the end.  Seventeen entries, each with a tale of the love they see to tell, faerie tales with the hopefulness and wishes, but without the overlay of happy, joyful fantasy but the cold hard reality of real life. 




    It’s a book that makes you think, effortlessly combining the macabre with the mundane forcing readers to look at the darker side of human nature, it’s there; now deal with it. 




    I received an eBook copy from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility. 

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

    Posted February 5, 2013

    I dont get it?

    What is it talking about? I got so confused and I haven't even read the book!!!!!!!
    What the crap...
    Not a good read I dont think...

    0 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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