WHEW, I finished it. In anticipation of our trip to Russia, I began reading Russka back in January. I have absolutely loved all of Rutherfurd's books and it was with great anticipation that I started this 900+ page tome. I would have loved to have read this in a much more compressed time period, but my commitment to my ProGen class, The Gables Book Club, and some traveling all got in the way of that goal. But I stuck with it and it certainly was worthwhile for the background history it provided.
Rutherfurd covers nearly 1800 years of Russian history through the stories of 5 families whose stories are told from different perspectives. They are the Bobrovs, Romanovs, Karpenkos, Suvorins and Popovs. The novel weaves the characters from the families into the actual history of the country. Representing serfs, Tartars, Ukrainians, Cossacks, and eventually the Bolsheviks, Marxists, and Socialists. The chapters cover just a snippet of the time period in question and give the reader a sense of the history in the context of the main characters. It is, for sure, an ambitious undertaking. But, that is the style of Rutherfurd. The reader sees the transformation of the country from the rural villages to the world power of the Soviet Union and its consequent break-up.
This was a very difficult book for me, unlike other Rutherfurd's other novels. It just didn't seem to flow as cleanly from one era to another and I did get bogged down a bit. It did, however, give an impression of the Russian people and the conflicts that they have endured in their history. It was especially telling about the relations with the Crimean people and the Ukrainians and emphasized that the conflicts there today are so deeply rooted in the past that resolution is improbable.