2 out of 4 stars
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In A Cossack's House, written by Marie Washtag, readers follow the adventurous travels of a passionate woman named Diana. The novel, narrated in the first person, revolves around two long summer trips she made from her home country, Yugoslavia, to Russia, where her grandma moved after marrying a Russian Cossack named Klym.
On the first trip, Diana was a divorced twenty-eight-year-old without kids. During her month-long stay, she has a great time and falls in love with Anatoly, who proposes marriage. Diana needed more time and went back home because her visa was about to expire. Although she promises to return soon, she only comes back ten years later, after her grandma passed and left her the house. On the second journey, she meets Tamara, a Russian woman who lived in Germany, and they become friends. Tamara helps Diana tackle a conspiracy to take the inherited house away, and the plot thickens.
The descriptions of Diana’s travels, notably her train journeys, had an almost poetic quality. Ethnic, linguistic, and territorial identities and boundaries are underlying aspects of the plot; this is what I enjoyed the most. On a train with her mother, for instance, they come across “a patchwork of Russian, Armenian, Kyrgyzstani, Azerbaijani, Mongolian, Tatar, Arabian... faces.” German, Hungarian, and Russian words often get quoted as Diana struggles to communicate with the other characters. Her poor command of the Russian language results in several difficulties in her friendships and romances, as well as in solving the inherited house situation.
On the other hand, there were numerous formatting errors in the Kindle edition. Some quotes were weirdly spaced, with one letter per line. Since some of these quotes resembled poems, it could be intentional, though. Other parts also were written oddly, with long sequences of sentences with little to no punctuation. Part of this could be intentional, too, for these instances usually regard Diana’s dreams or stream of consciousness. However, the editing issues went beyond that, for there were also many spelling and grammatical errors. It seemed to me that the book’s translation could have been better. Some sentences were difficult to understand, detracting from the text’s readability and making the plot a bit confusing. These shortcomings were what I disliked the most.
Unfortunately, due to the deficient editing and confusing plot, which I believe are interconnected, I rate A Cossack's House 2 out of 4 stars. It’s a pity, though, for the author has a great story to tell, and I’m guessing the book is much better in its original language; translations are tricky. Still, if you’re willing to overlook these shortcomings and enjoy stream-of-consciousness novels, it is an option worth considering. It might also appeal to readers interested in the history and geopolitics of the Slavic people.
A Cossack's House
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