Editors' Choice, The New York Times Book Review
"A tale of consummate beauty. Like a diamond with countless facets—utterly brilliant. Recommended ecstatically."
Starred review, Library Journal
"Remarkable . . . Beautiful book."
Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post
"Strikingly beautiful tale."
The Times Literary Supplement
"A writer of tremendous talent and promise."
Elif Batuman, The New York Times Book Review
The line: the universal symbol of scarcity and bureaucracy that exists wherever petty officials are let loose to abuse their powers.
The line begins to form on the whispered rumor that a famous exiled composer is returning to Moscow to conduct his last symphony. Tickets will be limited. Nameless faces join the line, jostling for preferred position. But as time passes and the seasons change and the ticket kiosk remains shuttered, these anonymous souls take on individual shape. Unlikely friendships are forged, long-buried memories spring to life, and a year-long wait is rewarded with unexpected acts of kindness that ease the bleakness of harshly lived lives. A disparate gaggle of strangers evolves into a community of friends united in their desire to experience music they have never been allowed to hear.
Inspired by the real-life episode of Igor Stravinsky's return to Russia in 1962, The Line is a transformative novel that speaks to the endurance of the human spirit even as it explores the ways in which we love-and what we do for love.
Praise for The Line
"Powerful . . . ingenious . . . One of the pleasures of reading this book is its resonance with earlier literary works. Grushin’s riffs on night skies recall Pasternak’s lyrics; the social system of the line evokes the group dynamics in Andrei Platonov’s novel “The Foundation Pit.” Grushin, who left Russia as a teenager, has a fluent and inspired English style . . . with a marvelous talent for appearances and atmospheres . . . The visible surfaces of people and things are depicted . . . virtuosically . . . A writer of tremendous talent and promise."
Elif Batuman, The New York Times Book Review
"Remarkable novel . . . Grushin leads all of these people . . . with a sure hand and an equally sure gift for surprise. Every one of her characters—by the end the cast is large—comes fully to life and reveals depths the reader at first does not sense. Grushin understands, as she says of Sergei, that he realized 'just how small his private immensity really was when measured against that other vast, dark, impersonal immensity, call it God, or history, or simply life,' yet she grants him, and all the others, individuality and dignity. Her disdain for the system under which they live ultimately matters far less than her sympathy for them, with which this beautiful book is suffused from first page to last."
Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post
"A new Russian master spins surprising fictional gold from the Godot-like tale of Soviet citizens waiting in an endless line . . . I'm not sure which is the bigger accomplishment, Grushin's ability to depict the tumult, disappointment and daily grind of life in post-revolution Russia, or the light touch of her style. The city her characters inhabit may be oppressive, but The Line is not. Grushin brings a complicated era to life . . . Olga Grushin's previous novel, The Dream Life of Sukhanov, brought her comparisons with Bulgakov, Gogol and Nabokov. She may have expatriated to the United States, but it's obvious the Russian masters still run in her blood."
National Public Radio, What We're Reading
"Strikingly beautiful tale . . . Captivating story . . . The knowledge that The Concert Ticket is inspired by historical events invests Grushin's fairy-tale narrative with an additional power . . . [W]hile the plot of promised revelations repeatedly denied and deferred may intrigue, it is the fine, evocative prose with which the closely observed world of The Concert Ticket is described that fires the reader's imagination, inspires sympathy for the characters, and sustains interest in following their progress . . . Grushin's flexible authorial voice slips with ease in and out of the characters' consciousnesses . . . Grushin's Russian landscape is not painted solely in shades of a depressing darkness; her delicate lighter tones inexplicably presage an unseen hope in place of despair, like those glimpsed by Anna on a dreary day in the face of a small boy ‘with fragments of a cloudy sky for eyes.'"
Times Literary Supplement
"Hypnotic and gorgeous . . . As this book shows, that sense of possibility can arise not just from standing in line but from reading about it."
The Boston Globe
"Extraordinary novel . . . Grushin [is] a great descriptive writer and a masterful psychologist . . . The novel’s success in providing a depth of experience about such an unlikely . . . subject as a ticket line is a testament not only to Grushin’s large talent but to her sustained control of her art . . . In The Line, Olga Grushin shows herself to be one extraordinarily capable swimmer in the world’s great ocean of literature."
"Readers of Grushin’s remarkable first novel, The Dream Life of Sukhanov, will be prepared for the vaulting lyricism of her style. In The Concert Ticket she again creates a landscape of surreal volatility . . . Grushin’s prose acquires a sequined texture, shimmering and delicate. The Concert Ticket . . . is a vibrant and original second novel."
"Olga Grushin’s second novel, The Line, is an exquisite and wrenching meditation on the act of waiting . . . So powerfully unnerving that the reader is inside the line, at times rooting for comrades, at other times exasperated by them. The feelings the book evokes are hard to shake . . . Grushin’s lyrical language stuns the reader . . . A breathtaking talent. Russian-born and writing in her second language, English, she has astonishing powers of description."
Russia Now/Telegraph (UK)
"Generates considerable suspense: not suspense in the thriller sense, exactly, more like agonizing concern for these tortured souls who have come to invest so much of themselves in the idea of reaching the head of the line. A concert, yes, but it’s far more than that. Whether they intend to keep their ticket, sell it, or give it away, that small piece of paper represents an escape from the quotidian grayness of Soviet Russia—a rare exclamation point in a life of ellipses. Grushin works the metaphor brilliantly."
"A strange, haunting fable about the longing for beauty and self-expression."
The Sunday Times (UK)
Grushin's "gauzy, bejewelled prose lends her drab Soviet town and the dream-filled interior worlds of the people a magical, shimmering sense of possibility and colour, transforming this strange parable on the soul-crushing aspects of communism into a story rich in wonder and hope."
"Olga Grushin has a gift for conveying Russian imagination . . . Her characters dream, daydream, yearn, hallucinate like Russian 20th-century poets . . . Grushin uses magical imagery to evoke that old Russian life of the heart into which she was born . . . Much of Grushin's counter-poetry, which invokes the symbolist heritage and its astonishing transformation into the lightning language of a new spirituality, dwells on the miracle of time and weather and subjective perspective to counter Soviet deadness. Grushin makes things happen novelistically."
The Independent (UK)
"Grushin's strength lies in spinning vibrant dreamscapes which lift this quietly moving fable about the power of hope."
Daily Mail (UK)
"Complex political and human story . . . Kafkaesque . . . Lyrical . . . [Grushin] writes about a world gone askew, with tones reminiscent of Jose Saramago's Blindness and Orhan Pamuk's Snow . . . Sophisticated literary read."
Winnipeg Free Press (Canada)
"Ever since Nikolai Gogol, the Russian greats have crafted beauty out of bleakness. From Raskolnikov's labor-camp redemption in Crime and Punishment to Prince Andrei's battlefield epiphany in War and Peace, their novels often display, with thrilling prose, how darkness precedes illumination. Such is the case with Olga Grushin's The Line, a slow-burning parable of hope and hysteria set against Soviet-era Moscow's ax-gray skies."
"A masterpiece of storytelling . . . Aside from the wonderful plot and deeply drawn characters, there is a richness in Grushin's writing that contains all the senses. We feel the damp cold of her winter evenings, smell the thick soup reducing in the close kitchen, hear the murmur of passing conversations, see the church shadows falling on her characters, taste the crumbly canapes at a secure embassy function. This is a novel to be read slowly, her descriptive power savored."
Russian Life Magazine
"An examination of human desire frustrated by bureaucracy and circumstance . . . Grushin expertly maintains a dreamlike tone to sell the novel’s more preposterous (albeit historically grounded) elements, and characters who initially appear one-dimensional become intensely empathetic by the novel’s end."
The A.V. Club (The Onion)
"Master of the post-communist Russian novel."
"The author has a wonderful way with words and a beautiful descriptive style - she writes in the way you would imagine T.S Eliot would write if he were a novelist. It's literally like poetry. The moving moments in this story – of which there are many - creep up on you quietly and grab you just when you least expect it . . . The characters are authentic and the book has so many layers you could read it again and again and still find something new. If you want to read a story which explores, in beautiful prose, the intricacies of the human spirit, I would definitely buy this book."
"The Line is a rare work, measured and delicate and written with a skilled, quiet hand. Its carefully crafted atmosphere of deferment and encroaching paranoia is an achievement to be sure."
The United Kingdom and Commonwealth (Viking)
The Netherlands (Artemis)
France (Editions Rivages)
Norway (Gyldendal Norsk)
Israel (Matar Publishing)
Hungary (Geopen Publishers)