A Mountain of Crumbs
Elena’s country is no longer the majestic Russia of literature or the tsars, but a nation struggling to retain its power and its pride. Born with a desire to explore the world beyond her borders, Elena finds her passion in the complexity of the English language—but in the Soviet Union of the 1960s such a passion verges on the subversive. Elena is controlled by the state the same way she is controlled by her mother, a mirror image of her motherland: overbearing, protective, difficult to leave. In the battle between a strong-willed daughter and her authoritarian mother, the daughter, in the end, must break free and leave in order to survive.
Through Elena’s captivating voice, we learn not only the stories of Russian family life in the second half of the twentieth century, but also the story of one rebellious citizen whose curiosity and determination finally transport her to a new world. It is an elegy to the lost country of childhood, where those who leave can never return.
Author Elena Gorokhova: Historical Figure
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Reading Group Guide
Soviet Russia of the 1960s and 1970s, where Elena Gorokhova grows up, is a bleak, disillusioned world, a land that promises everything but delivers little. How do you preserve the spark of enchantment amid the mandatory courses in scientific communism and banners proclaiming “We thank the party for the people’s welfare” above lines for toilet paper? Elena searches for the magic missing in her life and finds it in the English language— a passion that in the Soviet Union verges on the subversive.
Controlled by the state the same way she is controlled by her mother, Elena learns early to play the national game of pretending. “They pretend to pay us,” says her older sister, summing up Soviet life, “and we pretend to work.” Her mother, born eight years before Russia turned into the Soviet Union see more