Monday, 16 March 2020

Three Apples Fell from the Sky by Narine Abgaryan


Three Apples Fell from the Sky by Narine Abgaryan
First published in Russian in 2015. English language translation by Lisa C Hayden published by OneWorld Publications on the 5th March 2020.

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


An unforgettable story of friendship and feuds in a remote Armenian mountain village

In an isolated village high in the Armenian mountains, a close-knit community bickers, gossips and laughs. Their only connection to the outside world is an ancient telegraph wire and a perilous mountain road that even goats struggle to navigate.

As they go about their daily lives – harvesting crops, making baklava, tidying houses – the villagers sustain one another through good times and bad. But sometimes all it takes is a spark of romance to turn life on its head, and a plot to bring two of Maran's most stubbornly single residents together soon gives the village something new to gossip about...

Three Apples Fell from the Sky is an enchanting fable that brilliantly captures the idiosyncrasy of a small community. Sparkling with sumptuous imagery and warm humour, this is a vibrant tale of resilience, bravery and the miracle of everyday friendship.

Three Apples Fell From The Sky is an utterly charming novel. A deserving prize winner in its original Russian, I was delighted to spot this book on NetGalley sympathetically translated into English by Lisa Hayden. Narine Abgaryan's portrait of the slow decline of an isolated mountain village should by rights be something of a depressing read. Maran loses its population to war, to famine, and to a horrendous mudslide that sweeps away half the village overnight. However, the fabulously depicted characters who remain, stubbornly and grumpily overcoming every hurdle life can throw at them, make Three Apples Fell From The Sky a wonderfully heart-warming read. In these days of selfish panic-buying and self-isolation, reading about Maran's occupants and their daily lives was just the tonic I needed.

This novel reads almost like a fable or a fairytale in style and has moments which could be magical realism or could just be the effects of stories well-worn over years of retelling. By the time we meet them, Maran is down to less than two dozen residents, the youngest of them being fifty-eight, and all of them living in conditions that seem unbelievably harsh by modern Western standards. Food is reared or gathered by hand and cooked over open fires, laundry is a whole day of hard work, and evenings are for making or mending - at least while the light lasts. Its a hard but simple way of living which I found myself being more and more strongly drawn to as I spent longer with these amazing people. I loved learning each family's history through witnessing their friendships and I could appreciate their sense of themselves as a true community. Three Apples Fell From The Sky is beautifully written (and translated) so I could always empathise with each person's joys and sorrows yet, at the same time, I was always aware that this village was maintaining a very different culture to my own. Their superstitions and rituals underpin a way of life that I think has mostly vanished from everywhere now, except for one tiny village somewhere in the Armenian mountains!

Etsy Find!
by Russian Soul Vintage in
St Petersburg, Russia

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Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Narine Abgaryan / Contemporary fiction / Books from Armenia

6 comments:

  1. This sounds really good! I've been wanting to read more translated books but also books about/from Russia so this so going on my list!

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    1. Three Apples is brilliant! I loved this novel

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  2. A beautiful title - eye catching cover - great read

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  3. It's always great to get that five star read! I'm glad you enjoyed it!

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    1. I got lucky with a trio of amazing reads in March :-)

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