This is a multi-layered story of a young Russian immigrant who introduces us to a host of Australian characters on her journey from the Soviet Union to Melbourne in the 1980s. True to expectations, the book offers a social and cultural travel guide through the era and its enormous changes. However, it is the Melbourne setting that will resonate with most readers. Regular references to city landmarks including Carlton, the Block Arcade and Queen Victoria Market ground us in the local landscape, but this novel by Andrea Goldsmith also puts us in the centre of the cultural environment of the time. The sexual revolution in Australia contrasts with the political revolution in Russia. The fear of AIDS inhibits free and easy risk-taking in rapidly modernising Melbourne, while fear of persecution dominates Russian lives. Being familiar with the era and the issues made this novel more of a reminder than a discovery. However, it will be a fascinating eye-opener for many readers.
KARINA BARRYMORE VERDICT: History lesson