As the title of this review indicates, I have very mixed feelings about this book.
I studied Russian at school (many years ago) and used the original Penguin Russian Course as a text book, finding it excellent. For this reason, I had no hesitation in buying the New Penguin Russian Course a few months ago, when I dedided to renew my acquaintance with the language.
At first glance, I felt the new course would be every bit as good as the original; the explanations of the grammar points are easy to understand and are written in such a way as to be not only informative and interesting but even, on occasion, entertaining. I am quite sure that, in a classroom context, with the back up of a teacher, this would be a first class course book.
However, as a self-study tool, I feel the book leaves a lot to be desired. There is too much material crammed into each lesson, to the extent that the student may feel not only daunted at first glance, but also discouraged by the seemingly slow progress, because it takes so long to cover each chapter from beginning to end. In addition, I found that, even with prior knowledge of the language, I was having to turn back the pages frequently to go over a point covered earlier in the chapter, or in a previous chapter, because there are not enough practical exercises of each grammar point to allow the student fully to consolidate the knowledge acquired. I think a complete beginner, studying alone, would find this extremely discouraging.
I now find myself in the situation whereby I feel the need to acquire a separate workbook with exercises to practice the grammar points covered in just the first few chapters of this book.
In conclusion, I would highly recommend this book as a text-book for a classroom situation, but would definitely not recommend it for those studying alone, especially if they are complete beginners.