The Milkman in the Night


Read 26/12/2015-29/12/2015

Rating: 4 stars

Read for The Reader’s Room Winter Scavenger Hunt Challenge

“Cars were driving past them, making sighing and sobbing noises as they drove over snow that had already been kneaded by countless tyres.”

Andrey Kurkov is one of my favourite contemporary writers. This sentence not only poetically describes winter in Kiev, it also stands as a description of the human condition in Ukraine.

This is Ukraine after the Orange Revolution. Viktor Yushchenko is President and Viktor Yanukovych is Prime Minister. Yulia Tymoshenko is waiting in the wings. Corruption is the default position, selective naivety a way to survive.

Irina is a single mother who sells the breast milk she should be feeding her daughter with in order to get by. Egor is a security guard who tries to extricate Irina from the bizarre breast milk supply chain she’s unwittingly at the centre of. Dima is a sniffer dog handler at the airport who helps two baggage handlers steal a case full of drug ampoules that have an unusual effect on his cat and anyone the baggage handlers sell the drugs to. Semyon is a private security guard who works for an up and coming politician who employs unusual methods to stay looking young. Semyon sleepwalks and might be having a somnambulist affair with the witness to a murder. The murdered man was a pharmacist who was working on a drug to help keep politicians looking young and dynamic. The pharmacist’s widow befriends Semyon’s wife, and so Irina, Egor, Dima and Semyon are connected together.

I have enjoyed everything I’ve read by Kurkov so far and, while this lacked the originality of his Penguin books and was a little more far fetched, it was still an entertaining read. His characters are so well drawn, the surreal events they are drawn into so bizarre that you could imagine them happening in the craziness of Ukraine.

4 thoughts on “The Milkman in the Night

    1. I really like his work. He’s from Ukraine and as well as writing books, he’s a political commentator and journalist. His dark humour appeals to me, and the way he describes life, death and Russian-ness is entertaining and revealing. Death and the Penguin is his most famous novel, and still my favourite of what I’ve read so far. The follow up Penguin Lost is more on the zany side. A Matter of Death and Life is a very short novella. I thought it was funny, but I wouldn’t recommend it as a starting point. I have The President’s Last Love on my TBR and then I can let myself buy another from his back catalogue!


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