How to talk about Deathless
? Leaving a five-star rating doesn't seem like nearly enough praise, and going on about how much I loved it wouldn't seem to do it justice. But love it I absolutely did. I don't think I've read anything as beautiful and tragic as this.
The beautiful imagery of Valente's prose is perfect for bringing to life the many otherworldly events that take place in the book, yet it somehow doesn't take away the stark reality of the siege of Leningrad. In fact, the detached and almost sing-song like fairy tale lyricism of those chapters bring it home even harder somehow, an echo of Marya's more innocent times to harshly reflect the terrible suffering of Leningrad's present. It very nearly broke my heart to read about the dying houses and little Sofiya. These were the best and most terrible chapters.
I also loved reading about Valente's spin on Russian fairy tales and folklore, which I admittedly don't know very much about. The very structure of the prose is reminiscent of fairy tale literature, with a constant repetition/variation of three things -- three tasks, three sisters, etc. The stories of creation and the divisions of the tsars and tsaritsas enchanted me. Koschei himself was most compellingly written, harsh and vivid and gruesome and very much the personification of life. And only Marya's incredible fierceness could match such a terrible king.
I've been mulling it over for the past thirty minutes and my conclusion is that Deathless
is ridiculously impossible to shoehorn into any good all-encompassing description.
is a story about love and a story about marriages -- at times, two entirely different things -- and the sacrifices and compromises you have to make for them. It's a story about growing up and growing old, a story life and a story about death and how these two things struggle against each other endlessly, and how you just have to keep going on and forge your own path despite the dictates of fate. It's a story about escapism and reality, how both can be wonderful and terrible in their own separate ways. It's a fairy tale turned on its head, a fantasy story that weaves vanishing threads around a tragic and horrifying slice of history. Deathless
is a story, and it is also poetry.
You should just read it.