Gives a great insight into Russian life throughout the ages. Was a great way to learn a little Russian history while enjoying all the dramas of humanity.
ISBN 0804109729 - It's unavoidable that Rutherfurd be compared to Michener; their styles are similar, their books tend to be EPIC NOVELS and they both like one-word place-name titles. In a world without Michener, I'm especially glad there's Rutherfurd. Ignore the Russophiles; this book wasn't written for them. It is a novel, meant to entertain - dissecting it as if Rutherfurd had marketed it as a textbook is a ridiculous sort of snobbery.
Russka is set in two towns of the same name in Russia over a period of 1800+ years. The lives of two families are woven together through the entire novel. Each chapter covers a period of time, some following right on the heels of the previous chapter and others leaving gaps of decades or centuries; it's nice to have the family tree in the front of the book to refer to. Power shifts from family to family over the centuries; that they remain tied to one another for so long, and that they are largely unaware of those ties is an enjoyable aspect because the reader, of course, knows all about them.
Re-telling history through individual stories is a particularly good choice for Russka and by weaving the families together the scope of the story stays manageable. The story of the country is told in how it affects our two families, their immediate circle and the towns of Russka. That the years from 1918 onward are condensed into a very small percentage of the book is a gift - we've been reading that history for decades, we know those stories. It's the fictional look at life in the 1700 previous years that draws you in and makes you pity Paul Bobrov, Sergei Romanov and Ludmilla Suvorin - our last generation of characters - for what they don't even know they've lost.
There are wonderful things that stick out - women "swinging their sickles" in 180 (no, that's not missing a digit) and still at it in 1945; the amulet given to Kiy in the first chapter and its progress through the generations; most of all, the story of the firebird that survives the entire history of the country. Worthy of at least one thorough reading, as long as you're here for the story and not looking for history.