The Russian Debutante's Handbook

The Russian Debutante's Handbook

3.51 (5,953 ratings by Goodreads)
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Vladimir is a young Russian-American immigrant whose capitalist dreams and desire for a girlfriend lead him off the straight and narrow into uncharted territory. From the dreary confines of New York City's Emma Lazarus Immigrant Absorption Society to the hip frontier wilderness of Prava - the Eastern European Paris of the nineties, whose grand and glorious beauty is marred only by the shadow of the looming statue of Stalin's foot - The Russian Debutante's Handbook is a hilarious, extravagant, yet uncannily true to life more

Product details

  • Paperback | 464 pages
  • 128 x 192 x 32mm | 358.34g
  • Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • New edition
  • New edition
  • 0747568197
  • 9780747568193
  • 139,335

About Gary Shteyngart

Gary Shteyngart was born in Leningrad in 1972 and came to the United States seven years later. He lives in New York more

Review Text

Poor Vladimir Girshkin. The young Russian immigrant lives in early 1990s New York, wearing a sweat-stained shirt and frayed trousers and in the grip of serious money problems. His hysterical mother is prone to 'explosive nasal contretemps' and refuses to leave him alone, and if that wasn't bad enough, his love life is focused on his extremely large girlfriend, Challah, who gets whipped for a living. The ultimate indignity is his undesirable job as a 'seriously underperforming' clerk in the Emma Lazarus Immigrant Absorption Society. Even his birthdays are woeful, and it's impossible not to like him. As Russians, Rwandans, Turks and Kurds all queue up to harass and harangue him in a bewildering barrage of languages and dialects, our unlikely hero is perfectly summed up as the 'enduring victim of every practical joke the late twentieth century had to offer'. A psychotic Russian war hero with 'Breshnevian eyebrows' and too many surprises up his sleeves crash lands into Vladimir's unsatisfactory existence, swamping the young man with his overbearing demands. Vladimir soon finds himself drawn to Alexander Rybakov, kicking off a series of bizarre happenings which move Vladimir and his increasingly dodgy associates from New York to the heat of Florida, and eventually on to Prava - 'the Eastern European Paris of the '90s'. Moments of surrealism involving inanimate objects are reminiscent of Tom Robbins, which is no bad thing, and perfectly complement the refreshing vein of irreverence that runs through this story. The characters are full of mischievous joy, and are ideally suited to a sense of humour that is as bleak as it is hilarious. Gary Shteyngart is clearly a talent with his eyes fixed firmly on the big time, and this novel should go some way to ensuring he gets there. (Kirkus UK)show more

Review quote

'Rowdy, ribald, funny... Let's call this superb debut the real thing - an acute, accurate, intelligent look at America in the nineties' Esquire 'This picaresque debut transcends its personal genesis to become an all-around great American story ... If Henry Miller were Russian, this is a book he might have written' Time Out New York 'An adventurous, hilarious narrative ... Shteyngart is a supremely talented, funny and original writer' Guardian 'Witty, inventive and fast-moving ... a triumph' Daily Telegraphshow more

Rating details

5,953 ratings
3.51 out of 5 stars
5 16% (962)
4 37% (2,230)
3 31% (1,872)
2 11% (679)
1 4% (210)
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