- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (Dec 14 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0151013691
- ISBN-13: 978-0151013692
- Product Dimensions: 19 x 3.2 x 14.6 cm
- Shipping Weight: 567 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #4,199,657 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Lady of the Snakes Hardcover – Dec 14 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
The woes of being a scholarly mom are highlighted in this highbrow chick lit entry from Pastan (This Side of Married). Jane Levitsky's research concerns Maria (Masha) Karkova, the fictional, gifted wife of the fictional philandering genius of 19th-century Russian literature, Grigory Karkov. Jane is in her first year of a tenure-track job at the competitive University of Wisconsin–Madison as she struggles to untangle the web of intrigue surrounding Masha and Grigory. Husband Billy has moved with her from California along with toddler daughter Maisie, but Jane doesn't have much time for either of them, a fact of which live-in nanny Felicia is well aware. Further, Jane's office is next door to the professor she has been hired to replace, the irascible but charming Otto Sigelman, who was responsible for bringing Karkov's literary works to light; though he's meant to be retired, Otto is still very much invested in the reputation of his literary hero, and Jane's researches may be a threat. Fast-paced, well-written and entertaining, Pastan's latest has a winning feminist twist and should turn up in more than a few faculty lounges. (Jan.)
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"In this delightful novel, the mating habits of the subspecies we might call Very Intelligent Women are examined by a writer whose eye is sharp, whose wit is keen, and whose heart is open to the possibilities that love offers."--Ann Packer, author of The Dive from Clausen’s Pier
"A loving homage to the spirit of Jane Austen."--The Boston Globe
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Against that background, "Lady of the Snakes" was a wonderful treat. Incredibly honest about the everyday realities of a young academic juggling work and family, yet engrossing on the level of big questions; compulsively readable and convincingly literary at the same time. Rachel Pastan creates believable voices for both her modern heroine, Professor Jane Levitsky, and Jane's research subject, Russian countess Maria Karkova. (Quite an accomplishment given that Pastan had to create the excerpts of Karkova's journals and letters as well as the fictional 19th-century literary masterpieces of her husband Grigory Karkov.)
The academic mystery/counterplot about Karkov and Karkova is involving even if you have no background in Russian literature. The relationships between Karkov and Karkova, Jane and Maria, Jane and her husband Billy, and Jane and her academic rivals avoid easy categorization, mirroring the complicated textures and ambivalence of real life. I was touched by Jane's honesty about the tug she felt toward her work even as she cared deeply for her young daughter.
"Lady of the Snakes" would make an ideal book club selection. If you enjoyed Allegra Goodman's Intuition or A. S. Byatt's Possession: A Romance I highly recommend "Lady of the Snakes."
Two years later, Jane's burdens are exacerbated by a move to Wisconsin, where she accepts a teaching position at the University, the opportunity for a stellar career move within reach, in the same department as Professor Otto Sigelmann, aficionado of all things Karkov. While Jane focuses on Masha, the professor remains Karkov's greatest champion, a sly colleague she would do well to keep at arms length concerning her own interests. Floundering a bit in her first real teaching position, Jane escapes into Masha's diaries, developing an affinity for the Russian woman's personal challenges, her poignant words flowing between the centuries, linking the two in common angst. In real time, however, Jane and Billy are beset by the nightmare of childcare that is faced by young working parents, the couple sliding into routine, the spontaneity of their marriage slipping away with the days that pass too quickly.
Pastan does an admirable job of illustrating the frustrations of a career woman learning the harsh lessons of balancing work and home, the demands and daily frustrations, the fear that one must choose one or the other, not both. Just as Jane stumbles across a discovery that may establish her credentials in Russian literature, her home life cracks along predictable fault lines. Although she spends many chapters wallowing in discontent, Jane is eventually jarred out of a complacency that has become all too seductive, even Masha Karkov's life revealing conflicts beyond what Jane has anticipated. After much pain, both academic and personal, Jane must reassess her options, weighing career, family and reality. With Masha as inspiration, Jane faces the future from an altered perspective, harbinger of a new maturity. Realizing that vipers are everywhere, Jane learns to navigate more carefully through her particular world, embracing shortcomings as well as achievements. Luan Gaines/ 2008.