Author: Rachel Pastan
Title: Lady of the Snakes
Description: Jane Levitsky is writing her dissertation on the wife of Grigory Karkov, a major Russian novelist. When she discovers new evidence about the authorship of Karkov’s novels, academic politics seem to be preventing her from tracking down the leads. Meanwhile, she is adjusting to motherhood and trying to master an academic career and gain tenure, and her marriage might be slipping through the cracks.
Plot: The plot is very much like that of Possession (one of my favorite books), though the book is an easier read. There are two major plot lines: Jane’s family life/marriage and her investigation of Masha Karkov’s life.
Characters: Anyone who has done this (gone to grad school and attempted an academic career while trying to nurture a family) will immediately empathize with Jane’s predicament. So the stomach-churning tension of trying to arrange child care and hearing hints that not enough work is getting done, all the while feeling that one’s spouse is growing more and more distant are probably familiar to most of us.
Writing style: Pastan doles out the clues to the literary mystery bit by bit, until the big reveal at the end (which many readers will have guessed). I’ll say it again; it’s sort of a Possession-lite.
Audience: One reviewer called it “highbrow chick lit”—that’s pretty good.
Wrap-up: I enjoyed this read for two reasons: 1) the suspense of finding out more about the Karkovs’ literary lives, and 2) the pretty much spot on depiction of the life of a mother in academia. 4/5*