A Partial History of Lost Causes
By Jennifer DuBois
Completed November 22, 2011
I am always searching for new female writing talent, and after doing a little research, I decided to request A Partial History of Lost Causes by Jennifer DuBois from LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer Program. Initial reviews were favorable, and I was intrigued by the story of Irina, who went on a quest to answer her late father’s question, “How do you proceed when you know you’re losing?” The question was posed to a former Soviet chess prodigy, who never answered her father’s question, so Irina set out to Russia to find the answer.
A Partial History of Lost Causes switches between Irina’s narrative and that of Aleksandr, the chess prodigy. Through Aleksandr’s eyes, we see what life was like in the Soviet Union in the 1980’s. Aleksandr, despite his impressive talent, was not well received by Soviet officials, thanks in part to his involvement in an underground anti-Soviet movement. Irina’s sections dealt with her father’s death and her recent diagnosis with Huntington’s disease. Irina only had a few years left before the disease would immobilize her, and her narratives contemplate how she should spend her last good years. The trip to the former Soviet Union to meet Aleksandr seemed to be a perfect, therapeutic way for Irina to deal with her disease and mortality.
I love the premise of the story, but the book did not grab me. I am not a fan of politics, especially in my reading, and the inclusion of Russian politics in this book bogged the story down for me. Additionally, I didn’t feel attached to the main characters. Irina was selfish and cruel while Aleksandr was supercilious and self-absorbed. It was hard to like either one of them.
If you’re contemplating reading A Partial History of Lost Causes, I encourage you to check other critics’ and book bloggers’ views before deciding. This wasn’t the right book for me, but I wish DuBois the best of luck in her career. ( )
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.