Book Review: Zuleikha by Guzel Yakhina

March 27, 2019


Zuleikha by Guzel Yakhina (translated by Lisa Hayden) is a novel about a Tartar widow who has been exiled to Siberia in the 1930s. This book was the winner of the Yasnaya Polyana Literary Award and the Russia Big Book literary prize, as well as being short listed for the Russian Booker Prize.

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My rating for Zuleikha 5
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Zuleikha by Guzel Yakhina (translated by Lisa Hayden) is an unusual and powerful book. It is well written in beautiful narrative, and very gripping.

The first chapter introduces the reader to Zuleikha, a Tartar woman living in an ordinary Tartar village, and is very gripping showing a very simple woman who is happy with her lot in life, even though it a very difficult lot in which she works early in the morning to late at night. The author weaves in short biographies of other character, such as Professor Lejbe, whose own short biography probably merits a book of its own.

The book felt strange reading it, and I couldn’t figure out why – but then it dawned on me, it feels like it was written by two different people. One author is an action writer, moving the plot violently and quickly with an eye on entertaining the reader. The other author writes on a tremendous literary scale, not concerned with little concern to moving the plot forward, instead choosing to concentrate on quality and descriptive narration.

I didn’t think I’d enjoy this book as much as I did. It was a fascinating and sophisticated novel, telling a multi-layered story and deserving of every award it earned.


Zuleikha, a Tartar woman, watched her husband being murdered by communists and before she knew it she found herself suffering a torturous train ride while being exiled in Siberia, by the Angara River.

After the first tough winter, Zuleikha begins to settle in and get to know the exiles who are stuck with her in the new “settlement”. The group attempts to build a new life, with little help from those who forced them to re-settle. The group is commanded by Ignatov, who killed Zuleikha’s husband.

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More books by Guzel Yakhina*

Zohar — Man of la Book
Dis­claimer:I borrowed this book for free.
*Ama­zon links point to an affil­i­ate account

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Zuleikha by Guzel Yakhina

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