The Russian Booker Prize winning novel “The Time of Women” tells the story of three old women raising a small mute girl, Suzanna, in a communal apartment in the Soviet Union of the 1960s. Memories of hardship in first cataclysmic half of the century, as well as the loss of their own children, have receded in the background of everyday worries – such as how to preserve flour from one season to the next, or how to afford a wool suit for the 7-year-old girl. Here the author gives priority of voice to the grandmothers who, having lost their families in the World War II siege of Leningrad, quietly tell their stories to the future writer during confidential conversations at home. Chizhova uses these scraps of stories to form the base of her narrative, voicing the terrible facts of the siege in contrast to official versions from Soviet books.
Antonina, a factory worker and single mother, gets a room in a communal apartment that she and her little girl share with three elderly women. All have lost their families and become “grannies”
The novel features a variety of characters representing a collage of Soviet society, which only seems to be equal and to treat all its citizens alike: the former aristocracy, the intelligentsia, villagers secretly mocking communist ideals while hoping only for God's help, low-level party officials, trade union members ardently loyal to the Soviet Union, factory workers just starting to believe in the benefits of Soviet society and hoping that one day it will actually be possible to have a washing machine at home.
The female characters of the book combine all that is left from the past and inspired by their present: rural beliefs, religious views, the remnants of aristocracy, the myths of Soviet reality and ideology. All these elements intricately combined in the minds of these not-quite-yet-
The emotional tension of the book with its complicated narrative structure, transferring the speaking voice from one character to another, has aroused the interest of theater directors: it has been successfully realized as a play by the famous Moscow Sovremennik Theater ("The Contemporary")
About the author:
Born in Leningrad in 1957, Elena Chizhova worked as an economist, teacher, and entrepreneur until a rescue from a burning cruise ship in 1996 inspired a change in her life focus. She became a writer, and has gone on to be nominated for and to win several prestigious literary awards, including the Shortlist Russian Booker Prize in 2003 and 2005, and the Russian Booker prize for Time of Women in 2009.
Glagoslav Publications is an British-Dutch publishing company specializing in contemporary fiction and non-fiction by Russian, Ukrainian and Belorussian authors, as well as significant works from the past that, despite their enduring relevance, are currently unavailable in English and Dutch.