Lead Review (..return of the walking dead…)
- Book: Baba Dunja’s Last Love
- Location: Pripyat/Chernobyl
- Author: Alina Bronsky
Chernobyl is situated in the north of Ukraine, near the Belarus and Russian borders. It would doubtless have remained as obscure as it was were it not for the nuclear accident of 1986 – when radiation blighted the neighbourhood and spread from there right across Europe. The word still sends a chill down many a spine…
Baba Dunja was one of the inhabitants at the time. She, and many others, suffered burns and radiation poisoning – and were evacuated. Many years later she longs for the village and her old life – and returns… much to the dismay of the authorities. A motley crew of former inhabitants follow her. Marja lives in the house next to her, and eventually marries the almost 100 year old Sidorow (who has previously been turned down by Baba Dunja). Petrov is terminally ill and spends his time reading love poems. Lenotschka mostly sits in her house and knits an endlessly log scarf. The Gavrilows (Mr and Mrs…) tend their garden… They are all doomed by the radiation they have consumed, but that doesn’t seem to bother them. Dunja is happy. She tends the mis-shapen fruit and vegetables in her garden, and writes to her daughter, son-in-law, and grandchild who live in Germany. The idillic bliss is disturbed occasionally when teams of men in white protective clothing come to monitor their health and what they eat – but otherwise all is peaceful. And it is disturbed even more profoundly when a man and his young daughter turn up in the village. Why are they there and what do they want? Subsequent events have a profound impact on Baba Dunja and the rest of the inhabitants. Baba Dunja becomes a global cause célèbre (no more for fear of a spoiler…).
Baba Dunja’s Last Love is not a weighty tome (the edition I read had just 135 pages). Neither is it particularly profound… But it is quite definitely a delightful book. The characters are well observed and the basic concept of the book makes for an interesting read. It is well worth picking up.
Alina is an author I had not come across before. She is of Russian origin and now lives and works in Germany. Baba Dunja’s Last Love is her fourth book. The others are the critically acclaimed Broken Glass Park, The Hottest Dishes Of The Tartar Cuisine, and Just Call Me Superhero. I would suspect they are all pretty worthwhile.
This review first appeared on our blog