Splithead, Julya Rabinowich
By Julya Rabinowich
Portobello Books, 2011
'My father and I head towards a nervous breakdown as he attempts to erase three years of Communist indoctrination in the course of a single evening. I simply cannot comprehend that Lenin, the friend of all children, is now allegedly an arsehole.'
When seven-year-old Mischka and her family flee the oppressive USSR for the freedom of Vienna, her world seems to divide neatly in two: there's life as she knew it before, and life as she must relearn it now. But even as she's busy dressing her new Barbie, perfecting her German and gorging on fresh fruit, Mischka is aware that there's part of her that can never escape her homeland, with its terrifying folktales, its insidious anti-Semitism and its old family secrets. As her parents' marriage splinters and her sister retreats into silence, Mischka has to find her own way of living when her head and her heart are in two places at once.
There is darkness galore in this novel. But there is also much comedy to be had in its twisted enchanted tales. It is as seductive and unsettling as similar work by Angela Carter or Margaret Atwood, while it shares a geography with Everything Is Illuminated and If I Told You Once.
Julya Rabinowich, Splithead