"The Secret History of Moscow"
Format: Paperback, 304 pages
Publisher: Prime Books
Ekaterina Sedia made her debut with the novel “According to Crow” and “The Secret History of Moscow” is her second novel, one set as the title says in the author’s city of birth, Moscow.
Galina lives in Moscow with her mother and her pregnant sister, Masha. When Masha gives birth to a baby boy in their apartment bathroom and mysteriously disappears Galina believes that her sister transformed in the jackdaw which seats at the bathroom window. But Galina was hospitalize for schizophrenia and she hesitates to share her believe with anyone. Instead she begins the quest to find her sister, a quest that leads her on the underground of Moscow together with her new acquaintances Fyodor, a street artist, and Yakov, a policeman.
Among the stories I grew up with I was delighted by quite a great number of Russian fairytales and now Ekaterina Sedia through her novel, “The Secret History of Moscow”, made me remember those wonderful stories. In her novel Ekaterina Sedia brings to life some of the characters of the Russian folklore and legends, some historical characters and creates a few characters of our modern times, with the problems of the modern society and of the historical changes suffered by the Eastern European countries.
The main characters of the novel are three misfits, each one of them with a sad story behind, but who seem to find their places in their unique stories and on the underground of Moscow. Ekaterina Sedia works masterfully on her characters and this applies not only to the main three characters, but to the other ones as well. Through the interaction and the conversations between the three main characters and the denizens of the underground Moscow the author introduces the reader to the stories of each character and to their more or less tragic destiny. Also through their stories the author takes the reader through different periods of the Moscow history and to some of the major events of this history.
Besides the moments of history presented by Ekaterina Sedia she builds a wide picture of modern Moscow and the city situation after the fall of USSR and of the European communist bloc. I could connect with many aspects of Moscow present situation, because my country passed and still passes many of the same situations described by the author. The atmosphere created by the author is a grim one, but it is a captivating atmosphere. And the mix of history and mythology of the past Moscow adds new elements to the created atmosphere and to the pleasure of reading.
Although the story seems to falter from time to time and to be overpowered by the character presentation on some places it is an original and attractive story. Adding some amusing situation and replicas in the story (my favorite one being that when Father Frost says: “Have you dum-dums ever noticed that the moment there’s a foreign invasion, you get a record cold winter?”) I was attracted by Ekaterina Sedia’s “The Secret History of Moscow” since the beginning and the novel introduced me to an author I’ll be watching in the future.