Just before my sunny holiday in Hawaii, I read the rather bleak Soviet Milk by Nora Ikstena – in summary, avoid it if you need cheering up, as it’s about repression, mental health, addiction, and fraught mother-daughter relationships.
It’s set in the Soviet-ruled Baltics between 1969 and 1989 and examines the impact of Soviet rule on a girl and her family (predominantly her mother and grandmother). Some of the story is told from the mother’s perspective, as her education and opportunities were quite different to those ultimately available to her daughter. At the beginning, we learn of the mother’s efforts to follow her calling as a doctor.
She would be a doctor and a scientist, come what may. For the moment she easily manages to regurgitate the official programme, while simultaneously acquiring a totally different, prohibited education. Continue reading