This novel is really good fun. You might not think there is much scope for humour from a theme that involves a young fellow from Stalinist Russia looking for a better life, but Martin Sixsmith wrings out every drop of it, from satire to political jokes to belly laughs as his hero ends up in the swinging London of the 1960s, smoking wacky cigarettes and demonstrating with the hippies, meeting Mick Jagger and playing a big role in the World Cup Final (you'll have to read it to figure that one out). I bought this book because the Guardian said it was 'guaranteed to make you laugh your stockings off'. It did!!!
I bought this book on Saturday morning and I read non-stop till I finished it at dinner time. It's a real laugh a page experience (with a few sadder bits - but I won't give too much away). The narrator, Zhenya, is lovely: the story is told in his very idiosyncratic and charming Russian voice. He travels through all these weird and wonderful events, in Russia and England, and he thinks he knows what is going on, but we - the reader - know he doesn't really understand a thing. A great, breezy picaresque novel: I didn't think Martin Sixsmith had it in him (I'd always thought he was a very serious, high-brow type). Like the Guardian reviewer, it made me laugh my stockings off!
I agree with the previous reviewers that this is a really funny book. It's written in a fantastic style -- the real voice of the naive Russian hero -- and it's full of great jokes. But I think there is always an undercurrent of sadness in the story. Zhenya is trying to escape from the Soviet Union looking for a happier life he is convinced must exist somewhere. His adventures on the way there are hilarious. But you never really know if he is really finding the happiness he is seeking. The Daily Telegraph review got it right for me: this is laughter through tears.
I took this out of the library as an audio book and found it a breath of fresh air. I suspect it is even better as an audio book, skilfully read in a Russian accent by an actor. A very funny book without being vulgar or preaching a politically correct agenda, as so many modern humorous books feel the need to do. Sixsmith manages to portray the grim reality of life in communist Russia whilstat the same time being funny, and his description of the Russians' paranoia when they come to the evil capitalist England had tears rolling down my face.
The best book I've read in a long time. Highly original in its prose, sad and funny. It really reaches its hilarious climax in London. I haven't quite finished this yet and my girlfriend's just itching to get her hands on it!