Gor is keeping busy. He has a magic show to rehearse, his new assistant to get in line and a dacha in dire need of weeding. But he keeps being distracted by a tapping on his window – four floors up. Is old age finally catching up with him? Tolya has woken from a long illness to find his memory gone. Tidied away in a sanatorium, with only the view of a pine tree for entertainment, he is delighted when young doctor Vlad decides to make a project of him. With a keen listener by his side, and the aid of smuggled home-made sugary delights, Tolya’s boyhood memories return, revealing dark secrets. ‘Two Cousins of Azov’ is a tender and wonderful story of two men who, in the autumn of their years, have the chance to learn that memories can heal, as well as haunt.
I decided to do something a little different for this review because I loved Andrea Bennett’s first book ‘Galina Petrovna’s Three-Legged Dog Story’ so much I wanted to share my review for that as well as my review for her new book ‘Two Cousins of Azov’. I saw Kaisha at The Writing Garnet do this and thought it was a brilliant idea. So I hope you enjoy my first dual review!
In ‘Three Legged- Dog’ we are treated to the adventures of two elderly Russian ladies, in ‘Two Cousins of Azov’ we see the adventures of two elderly Russian gents, Gor and Tolya. I always love a book that can make me chuckle and this certainly did that. Andrea Bennett throws in some cracking one liners and entertaining scenarios that make this book a complete joy.
There are some great, quirky characters in this book, obviously our two main characters cousins Gor and Tolya. Gor is a former bank manager and magician, there are rumours that he has a stashed fortune somewhere in his apartment. Toyla is struggling with his memory, his childhood memories are strong and haunting, lost in those memories he loses track of the present day. Alongside the cousins there is a supporting cast of entertaining, colourful people. Gor’s assistant, Sveta and her daughter Albina, student doctor Vlad and his girlfriend Polly, who seems to be acting very suspiciously. I also greatly enjoyed the cameo appearances of characters from ‘Three-legged Dog’.
I found this book a lot darker than ‘Three-Legged Dog’, it’s just as entertaining but there are some very dark undertones. Gor and Toyla have made mistakes in the past and this is the story of them facing up to those mistakes and seeking some kind of redemption and solace.
Andrea Bennett’s knowledge and experience of Russia is obvious, I have no doubt in my mind that what she describes in this book is the truth of how Russia and its people were in the 90’s. If her characters are inspired by real life people, then she must have met some truly wonderful characters during her time in Russia.
This was a book I was enormously looking forward to and I wasn’t disappointed. With witty and clever writing, eccentric and colourful characters, and a strong message of second chances, Andrea Bennett’s novel is entertaining, moving and heart warming. I loved it.
BOOKISH CORNER RATING – 5/5 STARS
‘Galina Petrovna’s Three-Legged Dog Story’
A joyful and hilarious tale of some very spirited septuagenarians as they overcome innumerable obstacles to save their beloved mutt from a heartless exterminator in a land where bureaucracy reigns above all else. Perhaps you’re not a member of the Azov House of Culture Elderly Club? Perhaps you missed the talk on the Cabbage Root Fly last week? Galina Petrovna hasn’t missed one since she joined the Club, when she officially became old. But she would much rather be at home with her three-legged dog Boroda. Boroda isn’t ‘hers’ exactly, they belong to each other really, and that’s why she doesn’t wear a collar. And that’s how Mitya the Exterminator got her. And that’s why Vasily Semyonovich was arrested. And Galina had to call on Zoya who had to call on Grigory Mikhailovich. And go to Moscow. Filled to the brim with pickle, misadventure and tears, Galina Petrovna’s Three-Legged Dog Story will leave you smiling at every page.
Galia and her three-legged dog, Boroda have an understanding. Boroda found Galia, stays with her and in return Galia doesn’t make her wear a collar. Which is all well and good until Mitya the Exterminator comes across the un-collared dog and mistakes her for a stray. This one incident starts a snowball effect and is the beginning of a Russian adventure!
I love this book. I always know I’m going to enjoy a book when two pages in I’m already laughing out loud to myself! There are so many brilliant moments is Galia’s tale and I did chortle regularly as I read. My particular favourite moment was when Zoya offers advice on spare knickers! The characters leap off the page at you, you instantly feel you know them and instantly love them. Even Mitya the Exterminator.
Whilst this is very much in the same vein of Hundred Year Old Man, this book stands on its own, but deserves just as much praise. Funny, emotional and full of brilliant characters this is definitely a must read. And lets be honest what’s not to love about a pair of elderly Russian ladies on a mission to save a three-legged dog??
BOOKISH CORNER RATING – 5/5 STARS
Andrea Bennett graduated from the University of Sheffield in History and Russian and then spent a good part of the Yeltsin years living and working in Russia. Andrea was discovered by the Borough Press in their inaugural Open Submissions competition in April 2014, one of over 300 entries. Her debut novel ‘Galina Petrovna’s Three-Legged Dog Story’ was published in 2015. ‘Two Cousins of Azov’ is her second novel.
‘Two Cousins of Azov’ is published in paperback on the 13th of July by Borough Press. With thanks to the author and the team at Harper Insider for my copy.
If you enjoy ‘The Two Cousins of Azov’, then you should try these next:
‘The Hundred-Year-Old-Man Who Climbed Out Of A Window’ by Jonas Jonasson
‘Galina Petrovna’s Three-Legged Dog Story’ by Andrea Bennett
‘The Unlikely Pilgrimmage Of Harold Fry’ by Rachel Joyce