The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra

(GRANTA; 2016)

Set in Russia and spanning from 1930s then-Leningrad to 2010 post-Soviet, post-Chechen War country, The Tsar of Love and Techno feels more like a novel than a collection of short stories.

Of the many lives depicted in this book over several generations, the theme of family and how intrinsically it shapes all of us runs through. The clumsy, beautiful girl who strives to follow in her prima ballerina grandmother’s footsteps. The brothers whose space-obsessed father will always come back to them in their thoughts. The censor’s nephew who needs to make his mark on the world. It’s a reminder of how – usually embarrassingly – we have a need to prove and identify ourselves.

Easily my favourite read of 2018 so far, it’s a story I couldn’t wait to get back into at every chance I got. I’ll always be a fan of fiction with an intertwined-story structure (shout out to Love Actually, the greatest movie of all time) and they’re even better when every single character is so rich in detail and honesty. I’ll be the first to admit that my knowledge of the history of the Soviet Union is average at best, but it’s Marra’s knack for making the political personal means it didn’t really matter.

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