All Russians Love Birch Trees by - Olga Grjasnowa - 336 pages
Set in Frankfurt, All Russians Love Birch Trees follows a young immigrant named Masha. Fluent in five languages and able to get by in several others, Masha lives with her boyfriend, Elias. Her best friends are Muslims struggling to obtain residence permits, and her parents rarely leave the house except to compare gas prices. Masha has nearly completed her studies to become an interpreter, when suddenly Elias is hospitalized after a serious soccer injury and dies, forcing her to question a past that has haunted her for years.
Olga Grjasnowa has a unique gift for seeing the funny side of even the most tragic situations. With cool irony, her debut novel tells the story of a headstrong young woman for whom the issue of origin and nationality is immaterial—her Jewish background has taught her she can survive anywhere. Yet Masha isn’t equipped to deal with grief, and this all-too-normal shortcoming gives a particularly bittersweet quality to her adventures.
My Review: 3 stars
I’m not sure how this book got on my radar, but at some point it obviously did, as I received an email from my library stating the book I requested was in. This was a very interesting story. I learned there was a place called Azerbaijan of which this character hails before her emigration to Germany. Although gifted in language as an interpreter, she can’t seem to voice her own needs and emotions. The translation was a bit rough at times, however I definitely felt like it was a German voice telling the story. Sentences were curt and to the point, which added to the veracity of the tale.
Quotes I liked:
- “Meanwhile, I played with my dolls and practiced forgetting.”
- “My favorite game at the time was News, and it was sorta like this: Divide up the park and try to take over the other’s territories. By any means necessary. Just like on the news that aired on TV after the cartoons. We played National Front. We played war.”
- I couldn’t believe that I was crying over my own lies. I had a German passport, a well-paid job and an apartment in Tel Aviv. I was free. Instead, I was sitting by myself in a cafe in Ramallah, crying and making up stories for a complete stranger. Just because he resembled Elisha.”
- "I tried to fill the void with vocabulary."
Tags: 2014, Fiction, Judaic, Germany
Labels: 2014, Fiction, Germany, Judaic