Read Both…for Different Reasons: The Nest and The Tsar of Love and Techno

April 7, 2016 Mini Book Reviews 31

I thoroughly enjoyed both of these books, but they couldn’t be more different. One is light, while the other is heavy. One is an “easy” read, while the other takes some concentration to catch all the brilliant connections. And one is plot driven, while the other relies more on the writing and social commentary. Pick your poison!

The Nest, Cynthia D'Aprix SweeneyThe Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
Fiction (Released March 22, 2016)
368 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Purchased (Publisher: Ecco) 

Plot Summary: After an accident leaves the four adult Plumb siblings’ (Melody the suburban mom, Bea the washed-up author, Leo the ex-media titan and current party boy, and Jack the struggling antique dealer) shared inheritance decimated, they’re forced to re-examine their lives.

My Thoughts: I love that The Nest is a debut novel by a 55 year old woman AND she got a $1 million advance! Unlike last year’s advance winner (City on Fire at $2 million), I think this book might actually sell. I’m a sucker for novels about dysfunctional families and wealthy people behaving badly and The Nest delivered both on a silver platter! I was immediately sucked into the lives of all four siblings and how each one responds to the news of their decimated trust fund (i.e. by maneuvering against each other based on their individual agendas). And, as the story continues, it becomes somewhat of a cautionary tale of why not to spend money that you don’t yet have!

Let’s come right out and say it…The Nest is not the pinnacle of literary fiction and will likely not be receiving any major literary awards. But, it’s a satisfying indulgence if you’re looking for something on the lighter side or that reads quickly…and, it will make an appearance on my 2016 Summer Reading List (coming in May).

Tsar of Love and Techno, Anthony MarraThe Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra
Fiction (Released October 6, 2015)
352 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Purchased (Publisher: Hogarth) 

Plot Summary: A collection of linked short stories spotlighting life in the USSR/Russian Federation/Russia from 1937 to present day (including life under Stalin, Brezhnev, Gorbachev, and Putin).

My Thoughts: My somewhat bizarre fascination with life behind the Iron Curtain (which started while watching those ‘roided up he-women win almost every swimming gold medal in the 1988 Seoul Olympics) and The Tsar of Love and Techno‘s performance in the 2016 Tournament of Books got me to finally read this much-lauded collection. It doesn’t read like most short story collections, as its linked nature makes it feel more like a novel told from different perspectives and time periods. And, the way Marra used characters and events to link each story perfectly rode the line of being brilliantly intricate, yet not too confusing to follow.

What really shined for me was Marra’s portrayal of the more quirky/screwed up aspects of Soviet life under Communist rule, wartime, Glasnost, and the rise of the oligarchs and organized crime (i.e. a professional censor of art and official photographs, music records made with old Cancer x-rays, a forest of metal trees with plastic leaves to trick people into thinking an area of Siberia wasn’t as polluted as it really was). His writing, especially when handling this type of social commentary, is delightfully subversive with occasional dry, fatalistic humor.

A little cropping, editing, adjusting of margins can rule out many undesirable elements. This has obvious limitations. Stalin’s pitted cheeks, for instance. To fix them you’d have to crop his entire head, a crime for which your own head would soon follow. For such sensitive work, I am brought in. During one bleak four-month stretch, I did nothing but airbrush his cheeks.

However, two stories (The Grozney Tourist Bureau and A Prisoner of Caucasus) focused more on the war with Chechnya and less on life under Communism for regular people…and therefore weren’t as successful for me (and are the reason I’m giving it 4 rather than 5 stars on Goodreads). Even so, The Tsar of Love and Techno would make an excellent book club selection.

Get Weekly Email Updates!

31 Responses to “Read Both…for Different Reasons: The Nest and The Tsar of Love and Techno”

  1. Naomi

    Both sound good, but if I had to choose I’d go with The Tsar. I still haven’t read his first book, yet, but plan to soon (very soon, I hope!). I don’t read a lot about life in Russia, so I’m hoping to learn a few things as well as enjoy the story.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      I’ve heard his first book is fantastic too! I’d like to get to it at some point.

  2. Donna @ OnDBookshelf

    I have to admit that The Nest holds more appeal for me than The Tsar, but I do have copies of both on my tbr, and do plan to get to them both eventually 🙂 I enjoyed Marra’s other work The Constellation of Vital Phenomena.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      They’re both great, but completely different. Depends what you’re in the mood for!

  3. Whitney @ Imaginary Book Club

    okay, those both sound amazing! Clearly, those predictions that The Nest is going to be THE BOOK this year are leading to something. I imagine that will be the first of these that I will be picking up, since it’s going to be unavailable in 2016, and I want to join everyone else in discussing how great it is!!

    • Sarah Dickinson

      It’s definitely gotten a lot of hype…probably because of that big advance figure! But, I think it will do really well this summer.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      There were so many Rooster books that I got excited to read coming out of that…now I just need the time!

  4. NancyS

    I loved Anthony Marra’s first book so will have to check out the new one and…..loved The Nest! I didn’t know that the writer is 55 — good for her!

    • Sarah Dickinson

      I know – inspiration, right?! I love when you see a woman reinventing herself in later life!

  5. Catherine

    You summed up The Nest so well! And the whole wealthy people/families behaving badly may be the crux of our twinness because when it’s done right I never tire of it!

    I loved Tsar because Marra so perfectly captured the fatalistic humor of modern day Russia. The 7 women who considered themselves close ‘friends’ and model citizens?! They’re like the cast of Southern Charm!

    • Sarah Dickinson

      OMG – YES!!! The Granddaughters all flitting around Galina! And I agree about our twinness – the hard part is I think doing that particular thing well is difficult, but I get so excited when we find one!!

  6. Athira

    Both sound very good but I am attracted to The Nest more – it sounds very much like my cups of tea. Dysfunctional family, check. Multiple characters, check. Relationships, check. I LOVE that the author got an advance for a book like this plus that it was at 55 years of age. Maybe there’s hope for me after all, lol!

  7. Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness)

    I love rich people behaving badly stories too. The Nest sounds pretty much perfect for my style of summer beach reading (other an being out in hardcover now… maybe it’ll make it’s way to my summer 2017 list).

    • Sarah Dickinson

      Exactly the role it plays for me too! And if I read hard copy books (I read 100% electronically now), I’d be with you on the paperback vs. hardcover issue!

  8. Kate Elkins

    I loved The Nest! Just finished it on Sunday. I have The Tsar in my tbr stack. Your review makes me want to start it now. But, I’m also eager to tackle the Neopolitan novels. Decisions, decisions, decisions!

    • Sarah Dickinson

      Glad you enjoyed The Nest! I haven’t read the Neopolitan novels, but I know a lot of people love them. From what I’ve heard, Tsar is a bit heavier than the Neopolitans, so depends what you’re in the mood for!

  9. Sarah

    I’m soooo close to the top of the library hold list for The Nest, and I can’t wait. You have me intrigued at The Tsar. I just finished The Edge of Eternity by Ken Follett, which was mainly a slog to get through, but my favorite parts of the book were the peeks behind the Iron Curtain.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      Eternity was my least favorite of the Century Trilogy, but I agree with you about the Iron Curtain parts…they were my favorite too!

  10. Marisa @ The Daily Dosage

    Glad you enjoyed Tsar, short stories are a tough sell (except for me ;))
    I’ll have to check out The Nest. I’m currently listening to Swans of Fifth Avenue which is very much out of my wheelhouse and I’m enjoying it so much. Who knew, rich people behaving badly would be something I could enjoy? The scandal!

    • Sarah Dickinson

      I loved Swans!! So juicy, but truly fascinating. I’ve always been weirdly curious about Capote.

  11. Amy @ Read a Latte

    I just started The Nest this morning after hearing so many positive things! I’m excited to get into it. I’d heard about the huge advance, but I had no idea she was a little older — That’s amazing! It’s really never too late to start writing!

    • Sarah Dickinson

      I thought her age was so inspiring – it’s definitely never too late…to do whatever it is you strive to do!

  1. Sibling Relationships Are At the Core of the 'The Nest'

    […] available at the library. It’s been getting rave reviews from people I trust (like Sarah’s Bookshelves) and I had the sneaking suspicion I was going to love it, which I did. The Nest is the story of a […]

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.