Recommended by :: No-one, a personal choice.....again
Star Rating:: **** 1/2
This translation of the Russian Novel by Andrey Kurkov is a brilliant read. Incredibly short, only 122 pages but packing quite a punch! Our narrator Tolya is stuck in a rut with no job, a loveless marriage and no aspirations. In a last ditch attempt to leave a lasting legacy of himself he hires a contract killer to take him out, it’s all going according to plan and then he meets Lena….
Detailed Review:: *SLIGHT PLOT SPOILERS*
A Matter of Death and Life is a Russian novel by Andrey Kurkov more famous for his novel Death and the Penguin (incidentally I am on the hunt for a copy of this). I think what really attracted me to this book was the blurb, or lack of it.
“Marital troubles? Sick of Life? Suicide the answer? Why not get yourself a contract killer?”
What could be more enticing than that!
The story is loosely told in a diary style and Tolya is our narrator. Stuck in Kiev with no hopes and no dreams he has no job, no money and a wife openly having an affair. Desperate to end his so called life suicide not being an option, what could be better than being taken out by a contract killer, for only people of importance are hunted by contract killers, think of the legacy in years to come of the mysterious man
killed by a contract killer.
Fate playing its part Tolya bumps into an old school friend and once the vodka starts flowing he manages to get the contact details of a contract killer, his prayers are answered! Pretending he wants to end the life of his wife’s lover he sends a photograph of himself and a location of a café nearby and starts counting down the days to his death. As the hours tick down Tolya prepares to go and makes his way to the “meeting” point. Things take an unexpected turn when he meets Lena, a local prostitute; death no longer seems like such a good idea…. Now if only there was some way to get rid of a contract killer?
I loved this book with its dark humour and original storyline although being a very short novel, a mere 122 pages it didn’t lack in any department, the characters were clearly defined, the plot simplistic but not boring. Tolya reminded me ever so slightly of Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver, confused and alone looking for a way out of a hopeless situation.
Kurkov writes in a way that makes you sympathise with Tolya even though some of his choices are less than conventional. As I have said before I am a big fan of first person style novels so this book appealed greatly to me but it was also so addictive because the story was so unusual almost comical. I highly recommend this book as being so short it doesn’t take long to read (I managed it in an evening and I am not a fast reader) and it is makes a very enjoyable, easy read.