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"Problems with Electricity", review by Patrick Hall

"Problems with Electricity" is a cutely-titled collection of bittersweet short stories by Irina Borisova. The stories are partly fact, partly fiction, and reveal the tenderness of the human spirit set against the backdrop of a cruel but romantic Saint Petersburg.

The ideas for her stories are gleaned from the unpredictable experiences in her unusual trade. In her book she is somehow able to capture the flawed humanity of her different characters and reach us with it in a way we can all relate to. Included are touching tales of brave Russian women who hope against all hope for a better life, the well-meaning but often hapless Western men who court them, and the city that brings them together.

Borisova's earthy magic comes from her unique position at the crossroads between two very different cultures. In the place where the romantic chaos of Russia and the naive rationalism of the West collide, she portrays both of them honestly. Her stories are sometimes tragic, sometimes funny, but always ironic.

The language of the book, though (mostly) grammatically correct, is structured in ways the Queen never intended, lending it a delightfully foreign quality. One feels as if he is reading a subtitled film. It is English with Russian sentence structure, adding Borisova's unique stamp to the language.

This book is an easy read, with each story being short enough to finish on a bus commute or coffee break. It is recommended for all those who are interested in Russia, dating a partner overseas, or who simply like a good romantic novel.