Mothers and Daughters

Elena Bonner, Author Alfred A. Knopf $23 (349p) ISBN 978-0-394-58761-5
The widow of eminent Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov here offers a lackluster memoir of her childhood. Bonner, born in 1923, grew up enjoying the privileges of her stepfather's high rank in the Communist International. Her mother, jarringly called Mama throughout the book, had many Party obligations that often took her away from her two children, whom she would leave with nannies or with her own mother (called here by her nickname, Batanya); Batanya disdained the Communist regime that so enamored her daughter. Both women were stingy with hugs and kisses. The author recounts her mother's impatience with her frequent and often grave childhood illnesses; Mama also would tell young Elena that she was ugly and useless. Bonner's family lived in communal flats alternately in Moscow and Leningrad; neighbors changed frequently and visitors were always coming and going, which is confusing in this telling. Bonner seems to have trouble coming to terms with her father, who makes a few blurry appearances here, as well as with acknowledging her mother and stepfather's complicity in a brutal regime that would one day send them to the Gulag. Photos not seen by PW. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1992
Release date: 01/01/1992
Paperback - 349 pages - 978-0-679-74335-4
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