Title: Soviet Milk
Author: Nora Ikstena
Page Count/Review Word Count: 192
This is another of the Latvian novels that I’ve been picking up of late after spending some time in Riga on a press trip. Ikstena’s effort was originally called Mates Piens, meaning Mother’s Milk, but the name had to be changed for the English publication. That’s a shame, because it’s actually a powerful title that really relates back to the novel.
That’s one of the problems with reading translated literature: you never know how much is being lost in translation. Here, it feels like a great translation, but I couldn’t swear by it because I don’t speak Latvian. But what I do like is the sense of “thereness” that you get. You really feel as though you’re walking the streets of Riga in Soviet Latvia.
The narrative itself jumps between an unnamed mother and daughter duo, and that can occasionally be confusing from time to time. This ability to see inside both heads makes the characters more three-dimensional, because we see them both as they see themselves and as they’re seen by others.