The Russian's World: Life and Language, by Genevra Gerhart
The Twentieth Wife, by Indu Sundaresan
These are both for the Take a Chance Challenge #2: Loved One’s Choice: Ask a loved one to pick a book for you to read. Well, my mom and I trade books all the time, and my husband wouldn't recommend anything, so I did something a little different. I posted on facebook that if anyone recommended a book to me, I would pick one and read it by the end of March. I got lots of great recommendations back, and several of them are on my TBR list, but two I got right away. My sister-in-law, Katya, recommended The Russian's World--and she should know, since she is Russian. Then there is The Twentieth Wife, recommended by Meghan, my friend in homeschooling and Bollywood ventures.
Katya was actually horrified to find that I had to make do with the first edition of The Russian's World, from 1974. She refuses to endorse it, since she's never read it and it's 40 years out of date. She wants to me read the 2001 3rd edition, which is the one pictured here because it's so darn pretty. I want to read it too, and as soon as I can afford it I will--but as long as I'm getting my books through ILL, I'll have to put up with what I can get.
The Russian's World, 1974 edition is really a sort of companion textbook for a college Russian class, and how I wish I had had it when I was taking Russian! It's a great cultural book which just goes through all the different areas of daily life in Russia and explains them thoroughly. All the little things that you never even realize are different are explained, as well as all the big things. It covers topics such as a typical home (modern and old-fashioned), clothing, school, naming customs, all that sort of thing, with lots of vocabulary and snippets from readers or literature to illustrate the point--luckily there are translations in the back for those of us who have forgotten all our Russian, or never knew it. The book brought back some familiar terms to me, so that has been nice too. It looks just like my old Russian textbook--same type and everything--so I got quite a dose of nostalgia.
Looking at Gerhart's homepage, it seems that there have been extensive changes made to the text and several new chapters added, so I will be saving up for the new edition!
The Twentieth Wife is just about Meghan's favorite novel, but I had a hard time getting into it. It's a historical fiction story about a real woman--Mehrunnisa, whose life ambition is to marry the crown prince Salim. She schemes for years for her goal, navigating her way through the political minefield of the women's zenana and learning to exert power. I didn't really find Mehrunnisa--or Salim--all that likeable, though 17th-century India is a great setting. Sorry Meghan!