The Line: A Novel

The Line: A Novel

by Olga Grushin


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143118558
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/29/2011
Pages: 336
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Olga Grushin was born in Moscow in 1971. She studied at the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow State University, and Emory University. Her short fiction has appeared in Partisan Review, Confrontation, The Massachusetts Review, and Art Times. This is her first novel. Grushin, who became an American citizen in 2002, lives in Washington, D.C.

Reading Group Guide

It forms almost spontaneously. At a boarded-up kiosk on a bleak November afternoon in a nameless Russian city, a crowd of people step into line, not even knowing what they are waiting for. Amid the swirling and contradictory rumors, one particular story gains credence: the great composer Igor Fyodorovich Selinsky, long exiled from his native land, will be coming home to conduct a single performance of his new, reputedly brilliant ninth symphony. Though no one knows when the tickets will go on sale, two conditions are clear: tickets will be allocated one to a customer, and one has to be in line when the kiosk opens to receive a ticket.

The prospect of the concert precipitates a crisis in the drab apartment of a family with no last name. The father, Sergei, is a gifted violinist who has been forced by the government to play the tuba instead. He imagines the chance to see the great Selinsky as redemption from a life of aesthetic frustration. His schoolteacher wife, Anna, wants the ticket as a kind of cosmic peace offering to her ancient mother, who has asked to attend the concert for reasons known only to herself. The couple's teenage son, Alexander, cares little for classical music or, indeed, for anything else. The ticket he most covets is for a train ride as far from home as he can go. Gradually, however, the ticket becomes an object of obsessive desire for everyone in the household, as it comes to represent everything from the recovery of lost love to the hope of a new democratic era. The father, mother, and son all start taking turns holding the place in line, ditching school, risking their jobs, and mortgaging their futures just so they can be there when the kiosk finally opens.

But the family's apparent cooperation is not all that it seems. As the months draw on, each becomes enmeshed in his or her own web of lies and secrets. Seeking understanding, fulfillment, or simply an escape from the gray monotony of life, Sergei, Anna, and Alexander all seem likely to lose the things they hold most dear, and the precious love and trust that they set at risk seem unlikely to be compensated by an evening of music.

Inspired by real events and narrated with extraordinary verve and passion, The Line is a heartfelt tale of how physical deprivations can spill over into spiritual and emotional hunger. In this, her second outstanding novel, author Olga Grushin deftly explores the extent of human desire and the limits of family loyalty. Herself the daughter of a prominent Soviet sociologist, Grushin reveals in these pages that she, too, knows much about human nature and about life in the former Soviet Union—a place whose people's hopes, needs, and struggles may strike us as both far away and uncannily similar to our own.


The daughter of the famous Soviet sociologist Boris Grushin, Olga Grushin was born in Moscow and spent her early childhood in Prague. After studying art history at Moscow's Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts and journalism at Moscow State University, she came to the United States and earned a degree at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. During her varied and colorful career, she has worked as a research assistant at a Washington law firm, a cocktail waitress in a jazz bar, and an interpreter for former President Jimmy Carter. Her first novel, The Dream Life of Sukhanov, was awarded the 2007 New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award and was named a Notable Book of the Year by The New York Times. Ms. Grushin lives near Washington, D.C., with her husband and children.

Q. The story of The Line would not exist in the same way in a society where consumer goods were plentiful. Do you think it is possible that there may be some inverse relation between a society's prosperity and its capacity to generate good stories—that the more readily we can satisfy our needs, the less of interest we have to say?

Every society, no matter how prosperous, will always have its stories, I think, though the stories will, of course, differ from place to place, from time to time, as will their importance in people's lives. The stories that interest me most tend to be universal. At its heart, The Line is a fable of desire, of hope, of people whose lives have grown meaningless, and of stale longing for something to change, for something to happen. These, I believe, are notions that anyone can relate to, whether in a land of lack or a land of plenty. (One need look no further, for example, than the line for auditions at American Idol.) That said, more dramatic lives, more turbulent historical periods inevitably lend themselves to more dramatic, more complex stories. In times of deprivation, desires will be more urgent; in times of war and repression, people's actions will carry more weight. This particular story, which is essentially a story of searching for light amid darkness, stands out in brighter contrast against the snowbound gloom of Soviet history than it would against the electric illumination of American prosperity. But I have no doubt that there are other stories, better suited to the light. I hope to tell some of those as well.

Q. Your book is dedicated to your late father, the renowned Boris Grushin. How did your relationship with him influence you as a writer?

In many ways, my father was, and remains, the most important presence in my life. His was never a literary influence; he did write books, but he was a scholar rather than a writer. Yet on the deepest level imaginable, he influenced—formed, really—my approach to work and life in general. I've never known anyone as uncompromisingly devoted to his vision, as hard-working or as honorable, and, at the same time, so full of vitality, of energy, of an almost childlike curiosity about so many things. Inevitably, some of my most constant preoccupations as a writer stem from him. He shared with me his love of art and nature. He believed wasting time to be a great sin, and taught me, very early on, to be conscious of the passage of every day, every hour, almost every minute. I have since become interested in the complexities of the interactions between personal and historical time, in our individual perceptions of time, in the many ways in which our present is affected by our past and our future, and I explore all these themes in my work. I have also been drawn to his groundbreaking research into the little-studied sphere of "mass consciousness" (as he termed it) in all its manifestations, from anonymous anecdotes to folk songs. I pay tribute to his work in this novel, where the eponymous line undergoes vacillations and transformations, from a disjointed gathering of hostile individuals to a rumor mill to a Greek chorus to a violent mob to a true community.

And, quite apart from his ideas, my father's personality was so extraordinary that I'm sure his shadows and reflections will keep finding their way into my writing for years to come, until the day when I finally feel equal to the task of writing about him directly. In The Line, echoes of my father can be heard in two separate characters: the bearded man who organizes the crowd and becomes the line's natural if nameless leader, and the mysterious old man with piercing eyes who holds the people together in a less tangible way—by giving them hope.

Q. How did the inspiration for The Line come to you?

Usually, I find this question very hard to answer. So often ideas grow in hidden, subconscious ways, feeding on years of experiences, only to spring out fully formed one day, seemingly out of nowhere. This, at any rate, was the case with my first novel and most of my short stories. The Line is an exception: its origin was quite specific. I was at home at my desk, doing research for what I thought would be my second novel, when I happened upon a footnote concerning Igor Stravinsky's return to Russia in 1962. Of course, I'd heard about it while growing up in Moscow, but this was the first time I saw the story clearly for what it was. Immediately the idea of a year-long line gripped me—it was such an amazing metaphor for hope and the power of art, and it was so fascinating to think about the lives of those who chose to wait in the line and their interactions with one another. Right then and there, I knew I had to set aside the project I was working on and write this book.

Q. Reading The Line brought to mind a variety of authors, including Beckett and Gogol. Whom do you regard as your strongest literary influences?

I grew up reading the Russian greats, and that formed my idea of what true literature could do. Nabokov and Gogol are probably my strongest influences, followed by Chekhov and, to a lesser extent, Bulgakov and Daniil Kharms. Among the Western writers, I'm drawn to the whimsical, the fantastical, the absurd; I would have to name Kafka, Borges, Calvino, Laurence Sterne, Hoffmann, Lewis Carroll, and, especially in the case of The Line, Dino Buzzati.

Q. Classical music seems to matter quite a bit to you—or at least you can sympathize with those for whom it is a passion. What role has classical music played in your life?

Once again, the musical aspects of the book owe much to my father. He was the greatest lover of music I have ever known. He could sing entire operas by heart and always worked with his radio tuned to a classical station. Classical music is the background against which so many of my Moscow memories are set, and it carries an emotional charge for me—especially now that my father is no longer alive. Alexander's recollection of his father hearing a beloved piece on the radio and immediately bursting out of his room to invite his family to join him to listen, is borrowed from my own childhood. The rest of my family wasn't nearly as enthusiastic about listening so, in a way, this book became my way of telling my father that, although it didn't always seem so at the time, I did hear the music he was trying to play for me all through his life, and I thank him for that.

Q. The Line is intentionally vague as to details of place and time. The city where it is set is never named, and your historical moment takes snippets from the Stalin, Khrushchev, and Brezhnev eras. Why so nonspecific?

I decided, very early on, that I did not want to write a historical novel. Instead, I saw my story as a fable, free of time, free of place, a dark fairy tale set in a Russian dreamscape of sorts, to which the reader could hopefully relate without knowing much about Soviet history. Also, I intended the story to encompass a wide range of emotions and historical settings. For my purposes, the original Stravinsky episode was a bit one-dimensional, sounding only a single note of triumph, of hopes fulfilled. These moments are indeed present in the story—I borrowed much from the Soviet 1960s, with their atmosphere of change and rebirth—but I was also interested in adding drama and danger to the very act of standing in line, in introducing notions of courage, betrayal, and loss to the story, and so I turned to earlier, darker, periods in Soviet history, to times of repressions and denunciations.

Neither did I want my composer to be an actual historical figure. Large as Stravinsky is, my Selinsky was envisioned as larger than life, a figure of nearly mythical proportions, a savior, whom everyone in the line could imbue with vastly different qualities that would change as their dreams changed.

Q. Your descriptive prose in The Line is often fantastical and sometimes almost hallucinatory. Why did you opt for this style and how did you consider your readers when crafting your prose?

I strive to speak with my own voice, to accomplish something original. I love the idea of linguistic inventiveness and narrative experimentation. Writing a straightforward, linear story in streamlined prose would never hold my interest as a writer. I am deeply indebted to the two opposing traditions of Russian literature: the realist and the fantastical. I think the stories I'm most interested in telling, at least at this point in my life, are set in the shadowy places between the two; my characters frequently cross over from one to the other, and the style that I'd like to think of as my own involves frequent ventures into dreamlike states of consciousness, transitions between light and darkness. I found this approach well suited to telling my story of human hope. I wanted to contrast the stark drabness of reality with the bright, magical outbursts of my characters' fantasies, the darkness of history with the brilliance of art.

I do realize that not every book is for everyone. Some will think Hemingway too laconic, others will think Nabokov too rich. I can only hope that my work will find its readers.

Q. The features of your style become perhaps more startling when one realizes that English is your second language. How do you think the fact that you are a non-native speaker influences your authorial voice?

When I write in English, I think in English, but I inevitably introduce Russian literary echoes into my words, as well as a certain intonation that is typically Russian in nature. I think that my straddling of two cultures and two languages has helped me form my style, which is neither purely Russian nor American. And, of course, being a non-native speaker ensures that I never take my language for granted—an essential quality for a writer, I think, and one that I'm lucky to have without trying, by virtue of necessity.

Q. For quite some time at the outset of The Line, you keep the relationships among the main characters unclear. It's not until several chapters have gone by that we realize they are a family. What was your thinking on that point?

This way of introducing my characters is meant to illustrate their essential isolation at the onset of the story—each exists as a country with closed borders, each perceives the world in a severely limited way, both in terms of emotions and in terms of basic senses (one of which is lacking in each of the main characters), and each sees other people, even those closest to him or to her, as mere labels: "the old man," "the little boy," "the woman with bright lipstick," "my husband," "my wife." The points in the story at which labels finally give way to names are not accidental; among other things, they signify the characters drawing closer together, beginning to rediscover one another. The line, of course, serves as the catalyst in the process.

Q. Sometimes in midparagraph the thoughts of one of your characters will dissolve and be supplanted by the consciousness of another. Why did you make use of this rather unusual technique?

This answer is directly related to the one above. I envisioned the line as a system of mirrors: each character is a distinct mirror reflecting his or her own corner of the line from his or her own angle. The picture may be distorted and incomplete at first, yet gradually the reflections begin to merge into a coherent whole. The family at the heart of the story has four members, and there are four separate voices narrating the story. In the beginning of the novel, the boundaries between the voices are very clear, one chapter per voice. As the story progresses, however, these boundaries start to blur, their lives become less isolated, they are forced to form relationships, first with the strangers in the line around them, then, often through the mediation of these strangers, with one another. Eroding the artificial boundaries of separate chapters and, later, separate paragraphs, switching voices in an increasingly fluid fashion, was a way of portraying the family, and the entire line, as moving from isolation and anonymity toward community.

Q. It's easy to observe the ways in which The Line comments on Soviet Russia. Do you think it is also a less obvious commentary on capitalist America?

When one sets a story in Soviet Russia, it is, of course, impossible to avoid political connotations altogether. However, I was not actually trying to comment on either Russia or America in my novel. The motif of Over There permeates the entire book, and the characters' land of darkness and deprivation is often contrasted with a land of beauty and plenty. Although geographically these correspond to Russia and the West, my purpose was not to describe specific places but to identify mythological constructs in the minds of my characters: their "Over There" is an idealized fantasy of a place where the grass is green, as dreamed by someone in a wintry desert. In reality, people "Over There" may no longer be capable of noticing the grass; compare, for instance, Sergei's romantic childhood memory of "Westernized" Christmas ("soft, deep enchantment" in a "wondrous, promise-filled world") and the reaction of a well-heeled foreign diplomat looking at actual Christmas decorations ("trite symbols" that "bored him"), or Maya's magical "city of lights" and the foreigner's prosaic city of servile shopkeepers, chauffeurs, and expensive hotels. These, however, are reflections on the profound difference between having and wanting, possessing and remembering, rather than political or economic commentary per se.

Q. In The Line, a thing of beauty—a timeless piece of music—nearly becomes a commodity sought after by your characters and subsequently drives them to commit many wrongful acts. In what ways do you see The Line as a commentary on the relationship between the material and the ideal?

It is certainly true that, apart from Sergei, none of my characters wants to hear the music for music's sake. Art becomes a means to something else—a ticket to a better place or a higher emotion. And, indeed, those standing in the line commit numerous transgressions in pursuit of their goals—they lie, steal, and betray one another. On the other hand, none of them has a material motive: they dream about adventure, love, happiness, and other more or less ephemeral things. And, in the end, art is not commoditized. In some sense, it fulfills its most sacred function—to transport and transform—even though the concert never takes place. Ultimately, the contrast I meant to explore was not so much that between the material and the ideal but rather that between one's base, sordid reality and one's longing for something beautiful and true.

Q. What would you be prepared to wait in line for?

A new novel by Nabokov. An exhibit by Bosch or Chagall. A plane ticket to Greece. And, of course—in the longest line of all—medicine for my children.

Q. You are working on a third novel now. Any previews?

Unlike many writers, I have few superstitions about my work. I don't have to write the first sentence with a favorite pen or the last in a favorite armchair, nor spend the interim listening to a particular piece of music or wearing a particular sweater. I do have one superstition, however: I believe that an unfinished work has its own energy, which will dissipate quickly if one talks about it before its time. All I will say at this point is that my next book will be a departure both in its setting and its narrative technique.

  • Near the beginning of The Line, an old man tells Anna, "They are selling whatever you'd most like to have. What would you like?" (7) If someone were selling the thing you most desired, what sacrifices would you make in order to get it?
  • What are Anna's motivations and feelings when she first gets in line? How do these change as the novel progresses?
  • Over the course of the novel, the coveted ticket to the Selinsky concert comes to represent a different kind of wish fulfillment to each member of Anna's family. What is each of them looking for, and why do they think the ticket will help them get it?
  • How does The Line function as a moral parable? Despite the official atheism of the Soviet state, is there a quasi-religious dimension to the novel?
  • The members of Anna's family all lie to one another with astonishing frequency. Are some of their lies more defensible than others? What do you consider the worst lie in the novel and why?
  • A central "character" who appears in the novel only through the memories and speculations of others is the great composer himself, Igor Fyodorovich Selinsky. How much of the information we receive about him is actually reliable? Based on what can be gathered about him, how would you describe Selinsky as a person? Given both his greatness and his obscurity, does Selinsky function symbolically as a godlike presence (or absence)?
  • The lushness of Grushin's prose is noticeably set against the bleak atmosphere of her fictionalized Soviet city. What do you think of this contrast and why do you think Grushin chose this style for such a grim setting?
  • We discover early on that Anna does not like dreams, however dreams figure prominently in the novel. What purposes do Grushin's narrations of dreams tend to serve?
  • How does Alexander mature during the course of the novel? What does he learn, and how?
  • Which member of Anna's family do you think would most deserve to go to the concert if it were held? Why?
  • The Line ends with Anna's family all demonstrably worse off economically and socially than they were at the start, yet we are given to understand that their newly found closeness and wisdom have compensated them for their worldly losses. Do you believe this? How likely is their happiness to survive, given all the crushing blows that have been dealt to their material fortunes?
  • Did you find The Line depressing or, in the end, uplifting? Why?
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    The Line 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
    John_1014 More than 1 year ago
    Basically the story of a family waiting in line for tickets to a concert. But the twist is they are waiting in line over the course of a year. The story is inspired by a true event which the author notes: "In 1962, the celebrated Russian composer Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky accepted a Soviet invitation to visit his former country, his first trip to his native land after 50 years of absence... The line for tickets began a year before the performance and evolved into a unique and complex social system, with people working together and taking turns standing in the line." The story provides many twists and turns of who will eventually use the tickets. Not since Willa Wonka's golden ticket has a faimily been obsessed about obtaining and using a ticket.
    jtho on LibraryThing 7 months ago
    I received this book as a LibraryThing early reviewer.The basic plot of this book is very simple: a renowned composer is going to be returning to his homeland for a final concert, and people form a line at a kiosk to await the ticket sale. However, this book is also about secrets, desires and patience. In order to not lose their place in the line, people start taking shifts, and relationships form between those waiting. Sometimes the relationships never leave the line, sometimes they carry into the outside world. Everyone's reasons for staying in the line (and not abandoning it despite many months going by and no guarantee the tickets will arrive at all) are different, and everyone has a different reason for wanting a ticket at all. The line people's lives start to combine in unexpected ways, and the waiters start to question their own desires, relationships, and truths.Grushin's prose is engaging and poetic, and her characters - seen through their own eyes, and through other people's in the line - are realistic and empathetic. The story is so simple, and each person's desires and stories are simple too, but when they are layered together, larger truths are revealed, and a complicated web is woven. I really enjoyed this book.
    GarySeverance on LibraryThing 7 months ago
    Olga Grushin¿s novel begins in an alien, restrictive, punitive environment in Russia. In this Stalin era bleak state, defeated characters climb each day out of a pit of dreary night in winter without a moment¿s happiness until they end the day exhausted and isolated in their beds.A kiosk at the end of a street, with an abandoned, dilapidated church at the other end, is rumored to sell something unusual, the news traveling quickly between sad cases living in government inspired architecture. The rapid spread of word reveals an intensely interactive network of people that comes alive when hope is introduced. The hope is vague with no real idea of what the kiosk will be offering. But, if the goal were specific, the emotions related to it would be fleeting and not individually life changing.The people begin to line up and wait, and the infinite continuum of depressing days becomes sectioned into periods of waiting and anticipating. Each person in line has a dream of buying something that will have lasting meaning. A consensus develops in the waiting community that the products that will be sold are tickets to a symphony concert to be performed by a composer who left Russia before ¿the Change¿ that became Stalin¿s brutal regime.As spring arrives, people in the line continue to wait and dream about how the tickets will bring them happiness. The main characters include a father, mother, son, and maternal grandmother who begin to understand and empathize with each other by organizing shifts to keep their communal place in the waiting line. They gradually become a family by sharing their individual dreams and the love they have for each other.The general line itself becomes a cohesive group and a Khrushchev era of increasing freedom and emotional expression is possible. Isolated self interest is unsustainable in this new atmosphere, and each character must make a decision when to reestablish social lines of true communication. Even though the oppressive heat of summer produces a Brezhnev era of stagnation for the people in line, the tickets become almost irrelevant and the characters¿ new family and social bonds more rewarding. Groshin contrasts this state with that of the Stalin era when people with no hope lost themselves on a featureless time line, trying to live in the past or the future avoiding awareness of the miserable present. But after hope has been introduced, the infinite time line is brought to exquisite moments each day when the pinpoint of experience is focused like a crystal in the groove of a symphony record. The beautiful melody of life can only be heard when the moments are collected through immediate attention.The Line is an excellent, insightful, and potentially life changing experience for readers. We realize that our own lines of waiting and passing time allow for peak experiences of immediate life only when we use the awareness of our past and future to open honest lines of interaction with our families and others and share our alienated emotions. We can approach what William James called ¿the razor¿s edge of time¿ with this sharing even if we can never capture those perfect moments and hold them forever. The peak experiences can be put together to produce our own previously forbidden but now unstoppable symphony.
    pqimparfait on LibraryThing 7 months ago
    Ethereal language. I knew I was reading high quality prose, and yet, the book dragged. It was almost TOO mysterious, if that's possible. I agree with a previous reviewer that one might need to be in a particularly "Russian" mood to read it.
    Cecilturtle on LibraryThing 7 months ago
    When I received this book from an Early Reviewers program, I didn't have any expectations, yet I was blown away! The precise, poetic style alone is noteworthy, a real pleasure to read as the seasons wane and ebb and the waiting evolves in waves and pulls. However, the great strength of this book is how Grushin recreated the absurdity of life: a line imposed and monitored by the State, events and obstacles that throw off plans, ruts, routines, habits that prevent from moving forward. Yet, despite all of this, the triumph of the human spirit, the ability to adapt, to forge new relationships, to forgive, to question and to try anew, the creativity, the love and the hope. I loved the little nothings that pulled all the characters together, the personalities, likable or not, which, each in their own way, can be redeemed, the glittering past, the gray present and the timid future. A rich fresco that is neither optimistic nor pessimistic, but that just is; a never-ending cycle that touches us all. A real lesson in life.
    Panopticon2 on LibraryThing 7 months ago
    Books like this are the reason I joined LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program; sometimes you will encounter a real gem, that you would never have read otherwise. "The Line" is such a book. Set in Soviet Russia sometime in the 1950s/60s, it follows the lives of a disparate group of people, who spend an entire year waiting in a lineup to buy tickets for a concert to be performed, it is rumoured, by the great composer Selinsky - who had left Mother Russia for the decadent West many decades before. During the long wait, a complex web of relationships is formed among those who come to stand in the line. The author - a young Russian-American - skillfully handles the development of all of these relationships, to a satisfying conclusion. En route, I found some of the most beautiful, descriptive writing I've read in a long time (and when you're describing life in a Soviet tower block apartment, that's really saying something). This is an unexpectedly wonderful book, which I really enjoyed reading.
    thornton37814 on LibraryThing 7 months ago
    A line forms by a kiosk which never seems to be open. Everyone begins to stand in line -- even though no one is certain what they are selling. Rumors spread that an exiled composer will be returning to conduct his 9th symphony. This is a great work of fiction, but it did not completely hold my attention. I anticipated some of the outcomes. The book is great at showing the oppression during the communist regime in Russia. The book is great at depicting how people who are obsessed with a notion react.
    labfs39 on LibraryThing 7 months ago
    "Who's last in line? Are you last in line? What are they selling?"Thus begins the story of a family. A family whose lives unravel and are re-knit as they spend a year waiting in line. A line that builds community as the people who wait befriend one another and betray one another. A story that spans three generations and is filled with secrets and unseen connections. A book that is beautifully written, philosophical, and inspired by an incident in the life of Stravinsky.Anna is a middle-aged teacher, struggling to find meaning and hope in a world that is gray with disinterest. Life in Soviet Russia is bleak, and standing in line is a time-wasting fact of life. But it is the only way to get food, goods, and the little luxuries that brighten existence. One evening she sees a line and hastens to join it, hoping for something good. Every day she returns to her place in the line, convinced that whatever she will be able to buy will change her life for the better.Sergei, her husband, is a man disappointed with his life. A brilliant music student, he is relegated under the Soviets to playing the tuba in parades celebrating "The Change". He spells his wife in line when he learns that the line is for tickets to a musical performance by a Russian master who escaped to the West before the border closed. In turn, Sergei relies on his son, Alexander, to hold his place in line while he is at work. Alexander is a teenager desperate for action in a world so proscribed that change seems impossible.Grushin is able to take the simple act of standing in line and create an entire world full of rich characters, intricate winding plots, and relationships which depict how everyone has the capacity for wrong-doing and for forgiveness. And her language is evocative and emotion-laden.Anna had already left when he awoke the next morning. His head ached after a bumpy night filled with potholed dreams, though for just one instant, before his headache had set in, he seemed to sense a piercing vibration in the air, a lingering coda of a winding, heartrending melody that swiftly faded out of his reach before he could fully hear it in his daytime mind, its silver shadow diving deeper into the murk of the night¿s oblivion. In the kitchen he discovered lukewarm tea, a slice of ossified toast, and a folded note addressed to him in Anna¿s most elaborate script. He shoved the toast into the trash can, and the note, unread, into his jacket pocket, and left for work.Beautiful dreams fade into mundane life, hopes linger but remain forever out of reach, and missed opportunities are created from miscommunication. The Line is a wonderful story, and I can¿t wait to read Grushin¿s other, first, novel, The Dream Life of Sukhanov. Heartily recommended.
    miaherrera on LibraryThing 7 months ago
    Good books tell good stories. Great books tell good stories well. The Line by Olga Grushin is a great book. Grushin¿s story is simple in summary, but richly complex in execution. Set in Soviet Russia, a rumor begins to circulate that a famous exiled composer is returning to Moscow to conduct his last symphony. Tickets will be limited, and the line before the concert¿s kiosk grows along with peoples¿ anticipation. As time passes and seasons change, however, the kiosk remains closed and the line¿s individuals begin forming unlikely friendships, recalling buried memories, and encountering unexpected experiences that teach them more about life, its frustrating appearance of futility, and its true beauty. Though the premise of The Line is simple and its start is a bit slow, Grushin weaves a beautiful and enchanting tale. Her language is rich, her characters are startlingly human and recognizable, and the story slowly yet steadily grows into one that reveals the lushness of everyday life.Available on April 6, 2010, Grushin¿s book is definitely one to look forward to.
    elli0188 on LibraryThing 7 months ago
    I just finished this book and I really enjoyed it! The Line has a very unique plot which I found very captivating and I loved all the characters.
    Litfan on LibraryThing 7 months ago
    ¿The Line¿ is Grushin¿s second novel, set in an unspecified time in Soviet Russia. A line has formed at a kiosk, with rumors flying that tickets are being sold to a concert by the exiled composer, Igor Selinsky. The three main characters are Anna, her husband Sergei, and their son, Alexander. The novel covers an entire year of waiting, during which time people hold each other¿s place in line, so that several connections between characters are made in a fascinating, if sometimes a little confusing, web. The experience of being in line mirrors the lives of the characters: at the mercy of a bureaucracy that is under no obligation to give explanations. Nonetheless, the waiting crowd is buoyed by hope of something that will lift them from the drab repetition of their everyday lives.The novel is well-constructed, almost like the long-awaited symphony for which its characters wait, it builds slowly, crescendos and then swells to a touching, unexpected conclusion. The writing is really top-notch; Grushin doesn¿t just describe what it¿s like to live in oppression, she shows it with gorgeous imagery so that the reader has a visual picture that matches the emotions of those in the novel. What¿s most impressive about the writing is the author¿s ability to make you feel, at a deep level, the range of emotions of the characters: from surging hope to quiet, hopeless desperation. Very highly recommended.
    baubie on LibraryThing 7 months ago
    Grushin's "The Line" is about love, adolescence, desire, greed, hope, and passion. Inspired by a real life, year long line in Russia, The Line follows a family as they take turns waiting in this line for the opportunity to buy a single ticket to, what they think is, a concert. This story isn't really about the line though. The line is simply used as a vehicle for the many other stories Grushin tells.I enjoyed reading this book and I enjoyed the imagery it provided of Russia. At times, I found Grushin's writing style to be a tad flowery with adjectives used excessively. While a small flaw, it does help to paint a very vivid picture. In many cases, the narrative floats away from reality and into a dream world almost without the reader noticing. On several occasions, I would stop reading in a confused state because there were suddenly new characters or a different location. Going back a few paragraphs and following more slowly, I see that we've fallen off into dream land. At first, this annoyed me, but I started to anticipate it later in the book and no longer had trouble following these transitions.This novel isn't a single story, but instead, several stories that intertwine. By the end, pretty much every one of these stories becomes connected, which I felt was a bit contrived and somewhat unnecessary. At the same time, the small connections that kept popping up made me anticipate some big revelation that would draw everything together. This never really happens, and instead, the links are weaker and given less importance.When I finished the book, I felt as though nothing "really" happened. Each individual character went through a lot, but by the end, I felt as though their characters were the same as at the beginning of the book, only a year older. Sure, there are some changes that happen as they would during any year, but I was yearning for something more. Perhaps this was meant as a statement though, that after an entire year, as bizarre as this one, life in Russia is still bleak and gray.I would recommend this book to anybody interested in life in Russia and anyone who likes a good character story. If you are looking for page turning suspense or shattering surprises, this isn't really your book. Even without this, the book was never boring, but I felt like it kept skimming the surface of something bigger without breaking through.
    LynnB on LibraryThing 8 months ago
    This is an amazing book about life in Russia. A kiosk appears and people begin lining up, not knowing what will be sold. Evenually, it becomes clear that it is concert tickets for a previously unheard symphony by a famous (but exiled) composer. So, people wait in line and time passes -- slightly more than a year, in fact. During that time, the line becomes a community with people forming friendships. And it becomes an obsession for many as they lose their jobs rather than give up their place in line.Ms. Grushin is a great writer. She takes the reader into the dreams, hopes and fears of her characters. At times, there are dream sequences that I came to realize were dreams at the same time as the character does; as a result, I felt a great bond with several characters.There is an atmosphere of acceptance and hopelessness that, at times, reminded me of Dostoyevski's ability to convey oppression and mood without overtly drescribing it. At the same time, several events could be seen as darkly humourous. And, at times, it was a real page-turner...I couldn't wait to find out what happened next. This, I think, reflects the strong writing in terms of both the mood and the character development. Great stuff!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago