Sometimes I find A+ reading material by browsing through the employee recommendation shelves of an independent bookstore or scouring the “Books” section of the NPR website and sometimes I get bangarang advice from BLOGS LIKE THIS.
However there are times when a book just magically comes to me, like it was owl-delivered straight from the Ministry of Magic and the owl is wearing a sweater knitted by Mrs. Weasley and drinking Butterbeer while reading the Daily Prophet because everything about this book is just so f—ing magical.
Children of the Arbat is that book you guys! Or, to be precise, it is those THREE books, because dudes and lady dudes, we are dealing with aTRILOGY here. Not just ANY trilogy, a trilogy about the SOVIET UNION under STALIN’S REGIME!!!
Get back in the room, it’s not boring, it’s amazing.
So the “Children of the Arbat” in question are a bunch of young Ruski teen dudes and ladies who start out at the beginning of the 1930’s all “Life is great! The Soviet Union is the BEST! Communism rules, Capitalism droooooooools!” These youngsters include the smart-sexy- awesome-brave-if-Disney-made-an-animated-film-about-the-Soviet-Union-he-could-totally-be-the-strong-jawed-proletariat-prince Sasha Pankratov and his pals: sassy-Russian-Nancy-Drew-Mary-Tyler-Moore-spunky-spitfire gal-pal Varya, her stick-up-her-ass-but-nice-sometimes sister Nina, that-friend-you-think-is-kind-of-cool-and-later-realize-was-always-sort-of-a-jerkface Yuri, that-girl-that-is-always-really-nice-to-everybody-and-still-manages-to-f***-up-her-life-hardcore Lena AND MORE!
We start out with the gang just being fun-loving teens in the Arbat (Think the Soviet Union version of Silverlake, Los Angelesians, and New Yorkers, you think Williamsburg/Flatbush territory and everybody else think of that place in your town the young people love to go to for overpriced drinks and conversation about novels they’re “writing” and performance art pieces they’re “conceiving”). But it’s the 1930’s in the SOVIET UNION so you know they’re not going to be having fun for long, because at a certain point during Stalin’s regime, everybody in the USSR forgot what fun was. Over the ten years the book spans, it gets real, people. Comrades are banished to Siberia and fall into trouble with the KGB and die in horrible ways and then everybody gets drafted and has to go fight in the Second World War and why aren’t you halfway through the first volume of this series already?
Also Stalin is a main character, and we get a front-row seat to all the shenanigans he pulls on the USSR. By shenanigans, of course, I mean killing random colleagues, starving his country for a decade, and that whole being friends with Nazi Germany for a while thing. Shenanigans!
Go get Children of the Arbat ASAtotheP right now! Get yourself an ensemble-coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of Crazy Russian 1930′s Nutsiness Happening Everywhere with an ending to the series that will make you cry harder than old Rachel McAdams forgetting she loves old Ryan Gosling plus ET going home plus Bambi’s mom messing up and dying.
I know, I know. You’re all in the middle of George R.R.Martin’s Game-of-Thrones-if-crack-cocaine-made-genre-literature-series. That’s fine. Finish it up. Like, now. Get your cute boots over to the Arbat. The Children are waaaaaiiiiiiting for you.