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Review: Baba Yaga Laid an Egg, Dubravka Ugresic

Baba Yaga Laid an EggThis is a novel in three parts, all about women.  The first part is the story of a woman and her elderly mother, whose faculties are starting to flee in the face of age.  The second delves into the lives of three older women on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to a spa in a totally different country.  The last section embarks on a fictional literary analysis of the first two stories and ties them in with the traditional Baba Yaga myth.

This book was really difficult to get into.  I have never actually read any of the Canongate Myths series despite intending to for a good long time now.  This was to be my introduction, and unfortunately the fact that the first two segments had almost nothing to do with Baba Yaga put me off to a certain extent.  They were all about older women and while I could see how they tied into the myth slightly, it was often frustrated to feel like I just didn’t know enough to “get” the book the way I wanted to get it.

I’ve said before that I’m not a short story fan and that hindered my appreciation of the book as well.  Just when I got interested in the first story, it switched over, and the second story was a bit peculiar.  I actually found the literary analysis section quite interesting because while I knew a little about the myth from learning Russian, I didn’t know anywhere near what the book told me.  It was all really fascinating.  And then to my surprise, I found the last five pages amazingly powerful.  The end is almost brutally about women’s rights – about how wrong it is that women are so often the witches and the subjects while men who wear fancy hats decide our lives for us – and I almost wanted to stand up and cheer for Ugresic.

The last section also cast the book in a whole new light.  I’d almost like to read it again just to pick up what I knew I was missing the first time, but the analysis was so good I’m not sure I need to – I was reminded of literature classes, but in a good way.  It was a bit slower going but it really made the whole book an intriguing intellectual exercise that I felt was rewarding despite the initial frustration.

In short, if you enjoy the idea of myths and literary analysis, I think Baba Yaga Laid an Egg will work for you.  It also would be a fantastic choice for feminists, just for those five pages alone.

Anyone out there have a suggestion for another Canongate Myth for me to try? I have a PDF of The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, I just need to figure out how to get it on my phone for easy reading.

I am an Amazon Associate. I received this book for free from the publisher for review.

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