Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Review: Everything is Normal: Life and Times of a Soviet Kid

Author: Sergey Grechishkin
Started reading: July 2nd 2017
Finished the book: July 17th 2017
Pages: 305
Genres: Autobiography, Memoir
Published: 2017
Source: Got a digital copy from the author
Goodreads score: Not enough ratings
My score:
This book is both a memoir and a social history. On one hand, it is a light-hearted worm’s-eye-view of the USSR through one middle-class Soviet childhood in the 1970s - 1980s. On the other hand, it is a reflection on the mundane deprivations and existential terrors of day-to-day life in Leningrad in the decades preceding the collapse of the USSR.

The author occupies a peculiar place in the Soviet world. He is the son of a dissident father and also the step-son of a politically favored Leningrad University professor and Party member. He also occupies a peculiar place in the literal geographic sense- both his home and school are only a few blocks away from the city’s KGB headquarters, where a yet-unknown officer called Vladimir Putin is learning his trade..

My thoughts
I've never really known much about Russia, despite all the negativity from the press and the media. I was very curious what a little kid could tell me and teach me about his childhood in the Soviet Union. I was surprised by this book! Although it felt long at some point, I was enjoying the things I read most of the time.

  • Kid's point of view: The strong part about this book, is that it's told from a kid's point of view. The way a kid is experiencing things is always very different from an adult's point of view. The fact that Sergey was pretty happy in his childhood and actually has some great memories is a nice way to experience the Soviet Union.
  • Nice telling voice: The telling voice is awesome. I have no idea how I can explain this any further to you, but I enjoyed "listening" to Sergey; telling me about his childhood. It felt like listening to somebody instead of reading it yourself.
  • Educational: Like I just pointed out; I hear a lot of negative stories about Russia and have seen some documentaries that aren't always that positive. The fact that this kid is happy with the things he has and the way things are described are different than what you always hear from the media and the press. I like to hear the stories from somebody that has been there, instead of others who form their own conclusions. And don't forget; Learning about the communism and the way things were on the other side of Europe during WWII and after, was highly educational!
  • Sparkle of humor: I like the way Sergey start's his chapters, actually with some sarcasm or a little inside joke. But during the story you can always expect a little spark of sarcasm around the corner. It made the story light and enjoyable to read!
  • Feels long: The story feels like a long read. It didn't feel like 305 pages at all to me. At some point I felt like the story could've been maybe 50/100 pages shorter. And somewhere around 70% in the book this feeling started working against me.
 This book was something I don't read very often and I liked it! I'm actually pretty curious what Sergey did after school, where he met his wife, what he did for a living and when/how he made the decision to move to Londen.
Educational and lighthearted with a great telling voice. The Soviet Union from a kid's point of view is a lot different than hearing adults talking about it!

Other opinions about this book
"This is one extraordinary book. If you don't read this, then you are so not in the cool posse. If you read true stories a ton like me, or regardless of the possibility that you don't, begin now, with this one. Honestly, do it. I cracking cherished this."
- Antonio Mailer @ Inkshares

"A rare, first-hand glimpse into the lives of our Soviet brothers and sisters before the collapse of the USSR. I anticipate this to be a historical treasure!"
- Ferd Crôtte @ Inkshares

Memorable quotes from this book
"But as history teaches us, the only thing predictable about life is its unpredictability."

"Adults like to say that childhood passes quickly, that it's over in the blink of an eye. I can't agree. When you become an adult, that's when life starts roaring by."

"in the Soviet Union there is freedom of speech. But it's not written anywhere that one should be free after his speech."

Do you read a lot of autobiography books? Why or why not?