The Mushroom-picker

November 8, 2012
From Publishers Weekly

The art of cooking is used in this far-fetched satire as a metaphor for what is good and bad about Soviet and British society. Zinik has a razor-sharp wit, but because everythingpolitics, lovemaking, literatureis related to cooking, the novel is much too contrived, often clumsily executed. Kostya, a hulking Soviet factory guard, emigrates to the U.K. with his British wife Clea, a pathetic left-winger who he nicknames "Nuclea" for her militant pacifist views. Their life in the Soviet Union ran into trouble when Kostya started sleeping with their communal flatmate. Back in England, the situation is no better. Clea gets caught up in the anti-war activities of her posh friends. Kostya, in a jab at the Russian emigre community becomes a "fungophile." Chaos breaks loose when he goes mushroom picking on what turns out to be a secret nuclear base. Much is made of the difference between "mushroom," nuclear-style, and the edible kind. Zinik is best at lampooning Soviet life; less successful is his thinly drawn English version.