Thursday, February 12, 2015

Julie's Reviews: The Orphan Sky

Author: Ella Leya
Series: None
Publication Date: February 3, 2015
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Pages: 368
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: Simply brilliant
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: Set at the crossroads of Turkish, Persian and Russian cultures under the red flag of Communism in the late 1970s, The Orphan Sky reveals one woman's struggle to reconcile her ideals with the corrupt world around her, and to decide whether to betray her country or her heart. Leila is a young classical pianist who dreams of winning international competitions and bringing awards to her beloved country Azerbaijan. She is also a proud daughter of the Communist Party. When she receives an assignment from her communist mentor to spy on a music shop suspected of traitorous Western influences, she does it eagerly, determined to prove her worth to the Party. But Leila didn't anticipate the complications of meeting Tahir, the rebellious painter who owns the music shop. His jazz recordings, abstract art, and subversive political opinions crack open the veneer of the world she's been living in. Just when she begins to fall in love with both the West and Tahir, her comrades force her to make an impossible choice.  

Review: The Orphan Sky  is the rare gem of a novel where that it exceeds expectations. I LOVE when that happens. Leila is a wonderful character and she grows up before our eyes. It is not an easy coming of age tale to read but it is one of enlightenment. Leila has grown up in the upper echelon of Soviet Society in Azerbaijan which has given her many privileges. She is a member of the youth communist party and a gifted pianist.  It is both of these that gain her access to represent the Soviet Union in various piano competitions.

It is not until Farad assigns Leila with a mission to spy on a suspected traitor that her eyes begin to open to music/culture other than that which is deemed appropriate by the Soviets. It is here with Tahir where she hears Billie Holliday for the first time. It is here where Tahir challenges her to open up her mind and free her soul. He tells her to feel the music, not to just play the music. Unfortunately, unleashing her feelings while she's playing is not how they are to play in communist countries, she is to play it as it is written.

As Leila experiments with her feelings through her music it begins to open her eyes and heart to other things surrounding her. She begins to visit with Tahir to learn more about the Western culture, specifically music but also because she's intrigued by the man himself. It doesn't take much to decipher that Tahir and Leila will fall in love with each other.

I don't want to give you readers the idea that The Orphan Sky is a love story because it is so much more than that. The love story is just one aspect of the novel but it is this love that catapults her to explore the life she lives. There are other situations that cause Leila to grow up and grow up quickly. These weren't easy to read and it just made you want to shelter her. It is never good to live in a "bubble" but her's burst abruptly.

Ms. Leya does a fantastic job of describing Soviet Azerbaijan. The way she describes the mix of the
Communist culture and Islamic culture is fascinating. The fact that Islamic culture still existed is what I found fascinating since Communism is the only thing that its citizens should believe in.

If you have any interest in more modern history, than I say you pick up this fantastic debut. I can't wait to see what else Ms. Leya will write in the future.



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