Book review: Observation on the government of the Russian state by David Steele

With David Steele in The Alpujarra (Becky Swift, me, Becky Abrams and David).  Photo credit Frances James
With David Steele in The Alpujarra (Becky Swift, me, Becky Abrams and David). Photo credit Frances James

(There’s no book cover to show, so an alternative from me)

Observation on the government of the Russian state does exactly what the title suggests, but through the eyes of the Russian leader’s aide, Aleksey Nikolayevich Charkov.  Working at such close quarters, Aleksey allows us to see into the routines behind the office of rule, and behind the mask of the Russian leader…  Really?  Almost – it’s entirely satirical, but completely plausible.

It is a riot of a novella (taking a little over an hour to read), and had me laughing  to myself right the way through it.  It is fast paced, with 19 chapters, or different observations, each revealing a different aspect of the tensions of rule, or the workings of the government of the Russian state.

There is a vast character call for such a small book, with hugely unpronounceable and forgettable names, but this did not detract from the narration at all.  Viktor Viktorovich and Aleksey Nikolayevich Charkov are the only characters with any depth or development, the rest are there to move the stories on – perfect given the shortness of the book.  On that, I was disappointed when Aleksey exited and the book ended.

Steele’s writing in Observation on the government of the Russian state gives lots of description of place, and therefore it is easy to create images in the mind – at times it was almost cinematic.  It would make a brilliant play (or radio play), a farce that would have an audience rolling in the aisles.  My particular favourite was the saga around the President’s plant, a scene crying out to be aired on the stage.

Overall a very funny account – with some elements that still have me chuckling to myself.

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