BookReview SNEGUROCHKA by JUDITH HENEGHAN #20BooksOfSummer2022


Something terrible is happening here. Something terrible has already happened.

Snegurochka opens in Kiev in 1992, one year after Ukraine’s declaration of independence. Rachel, a troubled young English mother, joins her journalist husband on his first foreign posting in the city. Terrified of their apartment’s balcony with its view of the Motherland statue she develops obsessive rituals to keep her three-month old baby safe. Her difficulties expose her to a disturbing endgame between Elena Vasilyevna, the old caretaker, and Mykola Sirko, a shady businessman who sends Rachel a gift. Rachel is the interloper, ignorant, isolated, yet also culpable with her secrets and her estrangements. As consequences bear down she seeks out Zoya, her husband s caustic-tongued fixer, and Stepan, the boy from upstairs who watches them all.

Betrayal is everywhere and home is uncertain, but in the end there are many ways to be a mother.



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This is book 10 of my 20 Books of Summer 2022.

I found this book to be almost claustrophic in its’ feel as it explores the isolation felt by a new mother in a new land, as her husband moves to Kiev to take up a new job, and his wife has to deal with anxieties and paranoia as she comes to terms with her new life. While her husband finds the switch an exciting challenge, we get to witness Rachel trying to deal with day to day life amongst a city wondering why outsiders would be there in the harsh times they are facing in their country, not long after Ukraine gets its’ independence.

Rachel gets through each day with strict coping mechanisms, which almost drive her husband to insanity, but to her it is the only way to make it through day by day as she tries to navigate her way through life with a language barrier and a different way of life.

With flashbacks to her childhood, we get to understand her character a little more and what led her to have these anxieties and issues and you really get the sense of isolation she feels, despite the best intentions of some of the locals who are only there to try and help her.

A very timely read seeing as Ukraine is so much in the news at the moment, and a very powerful story and exploration of life in a different country.