4 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
AC Michael's "The Dancing Barber" is a historical comedy revolving around some Ukrainian families of the Soviet Post-Stalin epoche now living in Great Britain. After the horrific event of the Great Famine, some Ukrainians were so fed up with the Soviet Union, that used the camps of WWII as an opportunity to never return home. Some continued their liberal oppositional activities as partisans from abroad. The rest were just happy with leaving a peaceful life.
As a lucky descendant of two of the few survivors of the Armenian Genocide, I could completely relate to the pain of the characters. Such events should have never happened and are so completely wrong, that just thinking about them may give you shivers. Political leaders have too much power and the way they handle it sometimes is very unjust and sometimes painful even for generations to come. Oppressing the disobedient, fearing the strong, they don't even think about the horrors they make the nation to go through. Having seen the war, my grandmother still doesn't let a bit of bread to be wasted. And that was when there was simply nothing to eat, so everybody was being fed equally miserly, by rations. Imagine if you were forced to see your children starve to death while having all the grain left to rot aimlessly, just because you disagree to become enslaved by Stalin and his regime. Urgh.
Although it is built up on historical events, the book still touches some very simple, everyday topics. Each character is well thought over and could quite simply be your next-door neighbor. What I really liked about the book was that no character was purely good and only a few were entirely evil. Overall, each character had something to laugh at and something to cry to. I should also mention the presence of strong female characters (for some, I mean the word literally). The post-soviet families try to leave an impression of being quite patriarchic, while in real life women are often the main decision maker. This was perfectly described in The Dancing Barber's family.
This book will surely be remembered for its humor. Built around one of Stalin's biggest crimes (and, I say this of a man who could get a well-deserved 11 on a scale from 1 to 10 on criminality), this story managed to be very fast-paced and light to read. AC Michael never missed an opportunity to enlighten the readers' faces with a smile, even in the most tragic moments. And the overall storyline only contributed from this approach.
The only thing bothering me about this book doesn't even relate to the book itself as much as to the topic and timing of its release. It may be a coincidence, but this book was published during the recent tension between Russia and Ukraine. The topic of Holodomor (the Great Famine) is painful, regardless of the current events. I would hate to see "The Dancing Barber" perceived as a means of propaganda. I consider such things cheap and ingenious for art. A great storyteller as AC Michael deserves better than that.
Overall, it is with great pleasure that I give this book a well-deserved 4 out of 4 stars. There are some events we need to learn about, and this book is how I would like the future generations to learn about the Great Famine.
The Dancing Barber
View: on Bookshelves | on Amazon
Like exactly_dm's review? Post a comment saying so!