In Review

Our Country Friends: an ‘often funny’ and ‘sometimes moving’ novel

Gary Shteyngart’s book is set during the far-off-seeming ‘early days’ of the Covid pandemic

Gary Shteyngart’s fifth novel is set during the far-off-seeming “early days” of the Covid pandemic, said Claire Lowdon in The Sunday Times. Sasha Senderovsky, a successful Russian-born US novelist (like his creator), has retreated to his large house in upstate New York, accompanied by a group of friends. Their plan is to ride out lockdown together but, predictably, things go wrong.

Various housemates fall out with one another; “plenty of partner-swapping” occurs. If the basic conceit owes a lot to Chekhov, the novel’s boisterous, madcap comedy owes at least as much to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Shteyngart has brilliantly captured the “almost maniacal aliveness” of the early pandemic. If anyone writes a funnier lockdown novel, “I will eat my face mask”.

There’s so much going on in this somewhat “messy” novel that at times it’s exhausting to read, said John Self in The Times. A “little more stillness” would have been welcome. Still, it exhibits Shteyngart’s trademark “feverish energy” – and the result is “often funny” and “sometimes moving”.

Allen & Unwin 336pp £14.99; The Week Bookshop £11.99

Our Country Friends book cover
The Week Bookshop

To order this title or any other book in print, visit theweekbookshop.co.uk, or speak to a bookseller on 020-3176 3835. Opening times: Monday to Saturday 9am-5.30pm and Sunday 10am-4pm.

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