Wednesday, August 10, 2022

The Lost Button

The Lost Button / Irene Rozdobudko
trans. from the Ukrainian by Michael Naydan & Olha Tytarenko
London: Glagoslav, 2012.

Another novel that starts out in the Carpathians, this is a contemporary melodrama by a Ukrainian mystery writer that melds psychology, crossed lovers and a mystery. 

Film maker Denys is with other young artists at a Carpathian resort in the 1970s when he comes across Liza, an older woman who has made a splash in a recent movie. She's distant and much more worldly than he is, but they end up spending a night together, which sparks his obsession with her which will continue for many years. Liza, meanwhile, forgets about him and is more concerned about furthering her stalling career and caring for her young daughter Lika. 

Denys is an annoying character who I didn't much like right off the bat. Added to that, the opening at the resort is a bit slow and takes effort to engage with. Once the second section starts, with Liza as the focus, I found the pace picked up and the story flowed more easily. And when the entanglements of Denys and Liza's life start growing, the mystery and the interest grow as well. 

Will Denys be obsessed with Liza forever? Or will his new wife gain his full focus? Will she put up with him or not? (I know my answer...) There is a lot psychological melodrama about oddball characters in this story -- all 3 of the main characters are slightly obsessed with something, and they're all mixed up. The story ranges across Ukraine and into Europe and the US, and the characters are involved with the media during the waning Soviet years and into independent Ukraine, which adds its own flavour to their actions and perceptions. 

I felt that it tried to dig into both personal relationships and the broader social context of conditions of women's lives. An American character near the end is quite blunt about wondering why a woman would want to stay with a Ukrainian husband, with the social expectations on her, when she could be with said American instead. It points out how life can turn on the smallest detail, like a lost button; and that looking back is a mug's game, rather, you should be focusing on what you have now. 

But in the end, it really read like a telenovela (like the ones that one of the characters seems to be watching in one scene) and in fact, this story has been made into a tv movie in Ukraine. If you are looking for a genre read set in Ukraine which is modern and focused on more of a contemporary setting, this might be a good pick. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for stopping by ~ I always enjoy hearing your comments so please feel free to leave some!