A Mountain of Crumbs

A Mountain of Crumbs

A Memoir

Book - 2010
Average Rating:
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Elena Gorokhova grows up in 1960's Leningrad where she discovers that beauty and passion can be found in unexpected places in Soviet Russia.
Publisher: New York : Simon & Schuster, 2010, c2009
Edition: 1st Simon & Schuster hardcover ed
ISBN: 9781439125670
1439125678
Branch Call Number: B Gorokhova
Characteristics: 308 p., [8] p. of plates : ill. ; 25 cm

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Pisinga
Aug 21, 2016

I had some reluctance to start to read this memoir, expecting it to be full of anti-Soviet attacks. But still I decided to read, looking at all the dithyrambs of admiration. In the beginning I did not see anything anti-Soviet, on the contrary, a deep sense of nostalgia. But as I continued reading, unpleasant feeling was growing.
I would like to note that “The Russian equivalent of Angela’s Ashes” (Billy Collins). - is absolutely not accurate. There is nothing in common between “Angela’s Ashes” and ”A Mountain of Crumbs”.
I didn’t like that Gorokhova, made the image of her mother as a symbol of entire Soviet life. What I saw is how her mother all her life worked hard, took care of the family, all the time was washing clothes for all family and was serving to them all, including the author. Ugly. Even if the author of the book then brought his mother to live with her in the United States.
Despite the fact that in the book are many truthful facts, there are some that are absolutely untrue. For example - I can confidently say that no one was starving in the USSR. Yes, the tables of ordinary citizens didn’t have oysters for dinner, well, sorry, as well in other countries, not everyone can afford oysters for dinner meals.
A self-respecting person will not be going abroad, to write a book showing all the flaws of his/her homeland, only to become famous. You can share your thoughts with friends, acquaintances and relatives. But do not create a "masterpiece", ridiculing everything about world, where you were born and raised. In addition, her life was not really so bad. It is unrealistic - 3-4 year old child, when she was in nursery school, is already thinking about the injustice of the political and economic situations.

t
TheresaAJ
Feb 16, 2016

Elena Gorokhova shares memories of her Russian upbringing before emigrating to the United State at 24 in 1979. It's a fascinating look at life in Soviet-era Leningrad through the eyes of a girl who decided she wanted to learn English at age 5. Although the book plods at points while espousing the Russian philosophy on love and life, I kept on reading. The author is a year younger than I am so the book was a remarkable contrast between two ways of life during the Cold War era.

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baldand
Aug 08, 2015

I’ve never read a better memoir than this one. Ms. Gorokhova writes like an angel, now lyrical, now funny. She has a great gift for providing her reader with the appropriate aphorism or the telling detail.
At the time she met the American she would marry, the love of Ms. Gorokhova’s life was a Ukrainian from Kyiv named Boris Kravchenko, who she had met on a Black Sea beach while holidaying in the Crimea. The book was published in 2009, five years before the Russian takeover of the Crimea; anyone reading it today must be struck by the sad deterioration in the relations between Russians and Ukrainians.

Cdnbookworm Apr 04, 2013

This memoir covers Elena Gorokhova's first twenty-four years, spent in Leningrad, and her family's history. There is a short epilogue about the present. Elena was the second daughter of her mother, with two older half-sisters, one on each side of the family. The oldest, the one on her father's side, is seldom mentioned here. Elena's mother is a strong personality and she had a strong influence on Elena's life and choices. She was a doctor, working near the front in the Russian-Finnish war and again during part of the Second World War. She was born and raised in central Russia, moving to Leningrad upon her marriage to Elena's father. Elena's sister Marina defied their mother and became an actress, and Elena was given strong guidance to go into a practical occupation like that of her mother. But Elena also has a strong personality, and was taken by the idea of learning English, and was able to go down a road that gave her different opportunities. She was able to study English through university and had the opportunity to interact with foreign students. This led to her leaving and moving to the United States.
Her story is told in a very open way, including detail about her environment and her feelings throughout. An enlightening look at life in middle-class Russia in the 1960s and 1970s. I found her story fascinating, loving the detail about all aspects of her life, her relationships with family and friends, and her own ambivalence about her mother country.
The title comes from a story from her mother's childhood, during the famine, when her grandmother appeased her young uncle cries of hunger by breaking his bread into crumbs and telling him he had "a mountain of crumbs" rather than a single slice of bread.

b
blolo
Dec 21, 2011

It is interesting subject matter and extremely well written. I found it a bit slow going at times, but the way she weaves certain themes of her life together is beautiful and quite moving at times.

c
ClaireM_W
Dec 08, 2011

I loved this well written memoir. Thank you to my grandparents for emmigrating to Canada as early as 1912, or this would have been my life, and I would never have been strong enough to find my way out.

myheartdances Jul 11, 2011

I've read a lot of memoirs and this is definitely one of my favorite. Gorokhova has such vivid memories and descriptions of her childhood. I enjoyed learning about how growing up in the Soviet Union made her childhood different from mine, and delighted in how our childhood thoughts and wonders about the world were so much alike.

Her characters are deep and rich. I felt that I got an honest portrayal of who they were in her eyes, both the negative and positive, while still caring about each one. That is such an important achievement in memoir writing.

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