Nora Ikstena: Mātes piens (Soviet Milk)

The latest addition to my website is Nora Ikstena‘s Mātes piens (Soviet Milk). This is a superb novel about three generation of women in Latvia, struggling with the oppressive Soviet system. The narrator, who shares a birth date with the author, struggles with a mother who is a brilliant doctor but a depressive and less than brilliant mother (there is no father), who declines to breastfeed her daughter. We follow the stories of other women who suffer, often being persuaded to abort by their husbands or needing assistance to become pregnant (the mother essentially invents IVF) but all too many people, the mother included, come up against the Soviet system and its controls. The Latvian title translates as Mother’s Milk and both titles give some idea of what this book is about.

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