When Igor accidentally travels back to 1957, he finds out that the past isn't as rosy as it seems. In fact it's positively dangerous
Igor is confident his old Soviet policeman’s uniform will be the best costume at the party. But he hasn’t gone far before he realises something is wrong. The streets are unusually dark and empty, and the only person to emerge from the shadows runs away from him in terror.
After a perplexing conversation with the terrified man, who turns out to be a wine smuggler, and on recovering from the resulting hangover, Igor comes to an unbelievable conclusion: he has found his way back to 1957 Kiev. And it isn’t the innocent era his mother and her friends have so sentimentally described.
As he travels between centuries, his life becomes more and more complicated. The unusual gardener who lives in his mother’s shed keeps disappearing, his best friend has blackmailed the wrong people, and Igor has fallen in love with a married woman in a time before he was born. With his mother’s disapproval at his absences growing, and his adventures in each time frame starting to catch up with him, Igor has to survive the past if he wants any kind of future.
“Kurkov is a master story teller, using a simple lean style for a narrative that reads like a fable or myth, rich in invention, brought to life by the deadpan depiction of local people and local events”
The Bay, Swansea
“Kurkov masters the details superbly, writes with constant consummate wit and soufflé lightness”
Tom Adair, Scotsman
“Some see him as a latter day Bulgakov; to others he’s a Urkanian Murakami… With a characteristic mix of realism and fantasy it [The Gardener from Ochakov] will delight fans… Kurkov combines the mundane details of life in modern Ukraine (minibus taxis, tins of sprats and bottles of moonshine) with surreal elements from thrillers and sci-fi: knife wielding gangsters, or quantum leaps in the midnight suburbs. The plot rattles along like a Kiev commuter train, regularly stopping for vodka, salami and salted cucumbers…”
Phoebe Taplin, Guardian
“Quickly becomes an absorbing rollercoaster, an understated fantasy with an unlikely but likeable hero”
Matthew Dennison, The Times
“More than a clash of ages… It’s also a tale about fathers and sons and what they need from each other”
Lesley McDowell, Glasgow Sunday Herald
“Andrey Kurkov, author of Death and the Penguin, has perfected a brand of deadpan magical realism; his latest reads like a mixture of Mikhail Bulgakov and a rejected script for the amiable 1990s sitcom Goodnight Sweetheart. Kurkov’s unadorned style accentuates the narrative’s simple, fable-like quality but The Gardener from Ochakov is thematically rich: one might read it as a reflection on the role of alcohol in Ukrainian society, or the no less pernicious effects of post-Soviet nostalgia”
David Evans, Financial Times