Tuesday, August 09, 2022

Hardly Ever Otherwise

Hardly Ever Otherwise / Maria Matios
trans. from the Ukrainian by Yuri Tkacz
London: Glagoslav, 2012, c2007.
178 p.

Now on to some Ukrainian novels! This is one I read in ebook format thanks to Glagoslav Publications. I'm sharing this one today as it follows on from the last two short story collections I've just shared; it's an historical novel set in the Carpathian Mountains of Western Ukraine, and has some of the same themes as a few of the stories I've just read. 

It follows the family story of the Cheviuks and the village they live in. Told in three sections, the first follows the brothers of the family and the relationships they have with one another and with others in the village. There is jealousy, resentment, and a tragedy at the heart of it. In the second section, we see this tragedy from other eyes, those of other villagers involved, and learn more about the hidden motivations of others. And in the third section it all comes together. 

The story delves into the social mores of the time -- the primary position of men, and how women are just property and are often treated very badly, which everyone just expects and deals with. It also takes place just prior to WWI, when this region was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and that timing has a lot to do with the events of this narrative. 

This is a depressing story; nobody really comes out well, and there are some fractured relationships that are very sad to read about. But as a historical novel, it captures a time and a setting very well. It describes Hutsul life and traditions, and gives a good sense of what day to day life might have looked like at that moment, especially for women. With of course a good dollop of romantic historical storytelling.

Maria Matios has written a number of novels based in the Carpathian area, where she's from, and won some awards for them as well. I found that the style reminded me of those earlier writers from nearly a century ago (referenced in my last two postts), and captured those events in the same way. So she definitely has the historical style down. I'm always interested in these kind of books, although I'm also looking for more contemporary stories too. But read right after some actual historical short stories, I found this a dramatic and yet realistic look at one family in their particular setting. 

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