This book was really exciting for me. As someone who spent years studying Russian literature, I guess there's nothing more nostalgic of my academic days than reading about a dysfunctional, hyper-articulate, sensitive Russian family and the intricacies of their experience. This was the new Russian family novel! A twenty-first century update on the Dostoevskian classic!
Well, it started out all well and good. Complicated people and complicated scenarios: a mother's untimely death/possibly murder; her son, a married man having an affair; her daughter, a woman in existential crisis debating whether to leave her job and her husband. An illegitimate son and a bastard father. Fantastic! The classic themes spun into the comforts of contemporary life spread out between New York, London, and St. Petersburg. References to Dostoevsky sprinkled in here and there. It all started out so promising.
Well, by the end of the book, I have to say I was disappointed. The complications of the book all wove in and out of each other for, like 500 pages, gaining momentum and urgency, and then in the last few chapters ended up resolving and tying themselves up in a pretty little bow. What the hell? Is life so complicated and then ultimately so simple? Maybe. I don't know. Maybe that was the whole anticlimactic point.
In the end, the only thing I thought remarkable about this book were the few sections where Docx writes about music. Okay. Writing about music is probably as difficult as writing about sex. It can be clunky, awkward, cliche. It's been done so many times! But Docx writes about music, specifically about jazz piano performance, in a way that's really refreshing, intoxicating, exciting. If you decide to read and buy this book, it is worth it if only for those short, sweet, beautiful, beautiful sections of artistry.