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Moonlight in Odessa Paperback – 15 Feb 2010

4.4 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (15 Feb. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408802139
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408802137
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 2.3 x 23.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,837,140 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'A comically touching travelogue through the international romantic wasteland' Dave Boling, author of Guernica 'In this geopolitical romantic comedy, Janet Skeslien Charles deftly balances caustic wit with generosity of spirit, a breezy style with an incisive vision of East-West relations and the eternal Cold War between men and women. A sheer delight' Jake Lamar, author of Ghosts of Saint-Michel 'This is a delicious novel - wise, witty, wonderfully written' Vivian Gornick, author of Fierce Attachments 'Darkly humorous The endearing and forthright Daria is the perfect guide through the trickery and sincerity of chaotic courtships and short-order love The teetering dance between humour and heartbreak burns through this tale that takes place at the intersection of love and money, East and West, male and female' Publishers Weekly

Book Description

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian meets Desperate Housewives in this wry and sparkling debut --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I have just finished Moonlight in Odessa and I loved it. The best book I've read in months. I thought the relationships, characters and descriptions of Odessa were super and the observations on life in America (disillusionment despite the relative abundance) extremely well made. It will make a lovely film. Daria is a heroine with real depth and Vladimir Stanislavski was my favourite character (a gangster with a weak spot for a fiesty woman - how delicious). I hope the author will write a sequel, I need to know what happens next. It is the author's first novel and I hope the book is a great success, Janet Skeslien Charles deserves to make a big name for herself.
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Format: Hardcover
Daria slowly but surely pulled me in, in this absolutely transfixing novel. Her complicated relationships, her sense of humour, her businesslike approach to mafiosi...spot on. It was also great learning so much about Odessa, "Pearl of the Black Sea"! I couldn't put it down and hope Janet Skeslien Charles will write another! Awesome first novel from a very talented new author.
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Format: Paperback
Daria is an educated Ukranian in her twenties who lives with her Boba (grandmother) and works for a foreign shipping firm. She tries to see her home city of Odessa through rose-tinted spectacles, but can't help but see the poverty and inequality that followed the break-up of the Soviet Union. To make ends meet she moonlights at an introduction agency which puts American men and Ukranian women together with a view to marriage.

Though she is a modern woman fighting to survive in a harsh world, another kind of moonlight is often on her mind and Daria can't help wondering if finding the right man would solve all her problems. The reader follows her as she interacts with several men, including her boss and a local heavy who collects protection money from both her employers. She also starts an email correspondence with a man in the USA and wonders whether she should leave her home, and her Boba behind.

Though the cover of this book makes it look like unreconstructed chick lit, and the first half of the novel also gives this impression, I felt that it was really anti-chick lit as the message wasn't the usual one that finding the right man will instantly make everything ok. It's also a lot less "fluffy" than chick lit, which usually has a heroine with a secure home, job, enough money and the freedom to be what she wants to be. Daria does not have any of these, so her story is much more visceral and therefore more moving.

The book is also very funny, particularly in the first half when Daria is on her home ground and standing up for herself (albeit in a sometimes underhand way). The book is also refreshingly free of chick lit's obsession with its heroine's appearance and weight.
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Format: Paperback
Chick lit or literary fiction? Who cares? This is an intelligent book that is supremely readable. From the title onwards the author treats us to a feast of wordplay while telling the story of Daria, an intelligent and beautiful Odessan oppressed by her Israeli boss's expectation that she will sleep with him, by the unreconstructedness of the Ukrainian male, by her desire for the unreliable mafioso Vlad, by poverty, by her husband, by her conscience. Even her love for her home city is a burden, pulling at her heartstrings when she has escaped to the land of the free. Where of course she is not free, as her method of escape is to marry an American who is scarcely superior to the men of her homeland.
We also learn much about the rock-and-hard-place nature of communism and post-communism, how neither is wholly bad or good, but both are mostly bad.
The characters are fully fleshed out, from grandmother Boba to gorgeous Vlad and ambiguous boss David, from two-faced 'friend' Olga to insecure husband Tristan. Daria herself is totally sympathetic; although she uses Tristan to try to gain a green card, she is at first convinced that she loves him. She is an honest person, though not always honest with herself. We feel as confused as she does as she tries to negotiate all the choices in her life and to do right by everybody involved.
Towards the end, things come right a little too easily for Daria; it becomes a bit Dickensian as her benefactors pile up to save her. The very end is positive but a little flat, with many issues still unresolved, whether for better or for worse, and it felt like a bit of a cop-out - hence the four rather than five stars. Still highly recommended though!
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Format: Paperback
I thought that this book was a bit like The Short History of the Ukrainian tractor by Marina Lewycka, and I was not disappointed. I read this book in 4 days, as it was hard to put down.
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Format: Paperback
Where do I even start with this misbegotten horror? I guess by stating what should be painfully obvious: post-Soviet suffering and frothy chick lit do not mix. It would seem JSC never got the memo, given this novel expects us to believe in a heroine who can't afford food or lodging but still moons about yearning for true lurve. It may have won an award for comic romance, but it's neither funny nor romantic.

Daria is a predictably beautiful and virtuous young woman living on a far-flung sink estate in the chaos of mid-90's Odessa, struggling to provide for herself and her aging grandmother. When she succeeds in wangling a well-paid job at a foreign shipping firm she believes her problems are over, but in typical clichéd romance style (all together now) her problems are just beginning. When Daria's sleazy boss pursues her relentlessly, she employs increasingly outlandish but unsuccessful methods to deter him, culminating in a sexual assault. Are you laughing yet?

I can't be bothered to summarise the rest of the plot - suffice it to say poor much-maligned Daria battles on, betrayed by friends and diddled by enemies, winding up as a mail-order bride in the Californian boondocks. I just don't buy it: would a hardened city girl really be so naive, or allow herself the luxury of principles?

The novel is implausible from start to finish, both in plot and character. The folksy granny dispenses peasant wisdom over steaming bowls of borscht, urging Daria to find a man and spawn scores of bouncing babies, yet refuses to teach her to cook, stating she should focus on her career. What? Meanwhile the women opposing Daria are one-note ruthless slappers, with no understanding shown for the hardships that have shaped them.
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