Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Review: "Siberian Education" by Nicolai Lilin

From Goodreads:  In a contested, lawless region between Moldova and Ukraine known as Transnistria, a tightly knit group of "honest criminals"—exiled there by Stalin-live according to strict codes of ritualized respect and fierce loyalty. Here, tattoos tell the story of a man's life, "honest" weapons are separated from "sinful" ones, and authority is always to be distrusted. Beyond the control of any government and outside the bounds of "society" as we know it, these men uphold values including respect for elders and an unwavering adherence to the truth with passion-and often by brute force. 

My Thoughts:  As someone who is intrigued by all things Russian, this was a really interesting read for me.  I won it on Goodreads and really didn't know what to expect when I started reading it.  I honestly don't know how much of it is fact and how much is fiction (the author's note says some tales are made up) but the author provides the reader with a look at the criminal world in Transdneister.  I found the descriptions of the rules of the criminal factions, the tattoos and the "language" they spoke fascinating but I felt like the story was kind of disjointed and jumped around.  The book was comprised more of anecdotes and stories then one cohesive storyline.  There were some really neat characters in the book and I think that's why I kept reading despite being confused at times as to where the story was going.  I was also really struck by how the criminal groups were really one large family and worked hard to look out for one another despite their violent backgrounds.  I must say that I did find the part about the prison rapes revolting; I had to skip through those parts because I could not stomach what was being described.  Overall, if you are interested in Russia, you may want to check this book out.  3 stars.

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