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on 27 November 2011
Unsurprisingly, the reviews are all true to its words. The compilation of Russian Fairytales are remarkabley gothic, supernatural and follows you into your dreams. Ludmilla captures folklore traditions and allegorical stories in one book. Each story represents either a sin humans are guilty of having, or a story dealing with morality.

The book does well in entwining fairytales but with a Russian twist, containing references to the cold war, famine, poverty, lack of faith, death and the importance of love. Although this is not your typical Fairytale collection, it is however a very welcomed change to the conventions which traditional fairytales seem to follow.

The book is a great read! It leaves you feeling slightly chilled afterwards, but depicts the lengths and variations fairytales can go to, therefore leaving it without limits.
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on 14 January 2011
There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbour's Baby is the fabulously telling title of a collection of scary fairy tales by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya, "Russia's best known living writer." (p.ix)

I'd never heard of her.

But then, the story goes, there's good reason for that: for much of her writing life, Petrushevskaya was ostracised because "her stories about the lives of Russian women were too dark, too direct, and too forbidding. Even her fairy tales seemed to have an edge of despair to them." (p.viii) The Soviet Union was having none of it.

More fool them.

In time, of course, the Soviet Union collapsed, and having scraped the decades away writing scripts for television, radio and the stage, all of a sudden Petrushevskaya's off-kilter fiction was embraced by Russian readers, such that "her seventieth birthday in 2008 was a government-sponsored celebration on a national scale." (p.ix) There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbour's Baby is thus the first major translation of her work by an American publisher - so sayeth the great Wikipedia - and courtesy of Penguin Modern Classics, at long last we Brits have a chance to see for ourselves what all the fuss has been about.

Petrushevskaya is a sharp shock to the system indeed. A modern-day Grimm with none of the thematic whitewashing we've come expect from such stories as "There's Someone in the House," "The Black Coat" and "The New Robinson Crusoes: A Chronicle of the End of the Twentieth Century," Petrushevskaya is at her most disquieting when she sets her pointed sights on undermining the monotony of the everyday - as with the shut-in who becomes convinced there's an intruder in her flat in the first of those stories, and the family who are told the world will end if they leave their apartment in the second.

But this collection also serves to showcase another side of the Russian cause celebre: her scary fairy tales, as per that there subtitle. And in "The Father" and "The Cabbage-patch Mother," not to speak of several others, a glimmer of light cracks the dark, of love and hope and wonder amongst the bleakness of life as we know it.

There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbour's Baby is a lamentably short collection with which to begin what I can only hope becomes a long tradition of Petrushevskaya translations, each as precise as this, and yet it's long enough - I dare say a single story would be long enough - to bring to mind the likes of Tolstoy, Chekov, Beckett and Edgar Allen Poe. These are the sorts of names you throw around in company with Ludmilla Petrushevskaya, and There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbour's Baby will be argument enough as to why for any reader with a hankering for an entrancing bedtime story - or twenty.

Just don't expect to sleep soundly for a long while thereafter.
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on 11 August 2013
Just finished this collection of 'scary fairy tales' and really enjoyed it. There is darkness, sickness, sadness and black humour, all shot through with bleakness, either due to harsh Russian winters, or impoverished situations.

I bought this book on the basis of a review, having never heard of the author before, but thought I might enjoy it as I like Mikhail Bulgakov's work. I will definitely look out more of Petrushevskaya's work.
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on 14 April 2014
I absolutely could not get enough of this book. Every single one of the 19 stories left me thinking when I had read them. They are dark and often disconcerting, but that is what kept me coming back for more. Not only could I not stop reading once I started I also went back and re-read a number of them to let them settle in.
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VINE VOICEon 11 March 2011
I actively seek out the bizarre, surreal and strange in literature, so when this book appeared it ticked all the boxes. The title itself (the subject of the story 'Revenge') was more than enough to grab my interest. The collection contains modern fairy tales and fables, stories of life and death and what comes inbetween. They remind me of the TV show 'The Twilight Zone' but with an added dark sense of humour. I am not a big reader of Russian Literature, but I really enjoyed this little book. I generally read short stories to fill in short gaps of time; when I don't want to get caught up in a novel, but once I started this I kept reading to the end telling myself 'just one more'.
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The stories in this book were selected and translated by Keith Gessen and Anna Summers, who also provide an introduction. Although Ludmilla Petrushevskaya is undoubtedly Russia's greatest living author, chances are that you probably have never heard of her. Under the regime of the old Soviet government her stories were not freely available, although they are not overtly political, they are indeed dark and depict desolation to some extent.

This selection has 19 stories which border on the strange and plain weird, taking in allegories and other such matters. The writing is sparse and some people may find the stories discomforting, also if you are not used to Russian literature then this may be a bit too much for you. On the other hand, if you like Dostoevsky and Gogol, then you will probably lap this up.
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on 16 October 2013
These yarns are very Russian but even MORE American (translators hang your heads), not in the least 'scary' (or frightening, once the grown-up term) and indeed hardly fairy tales at all. Other reviewers compare them with Bulgakov, Dostoevsky and The Twilight Zone. Surely they can't all be right?
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on 27 April 2014
Wonderful odd stories from the edge of reality where myth and fable hold hands and go for a walk into our lives
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on 27 December 2014
grim, lacking in plot and character definition
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