The Rooster House : Best Books of 2023 Lists

I’m immensely grateful to all of you for your support and kind words about my book The Rooster House. I’ve received many warm letters and emails from my readers around the world. As the book appeared in different languages (17 so far), I traveled and met many of you in person. This year has been heartbreaking in so many respects and there are many days when my faith in humanity falters, but whenever I read your comments and notes, I feel an instant boost. The sense of community that I feel with my readers is a precious gift.

Another wonderful honor is that The Rooster House was selected among Best Books of 2023 by Kirkus Reviews, Express, Waterstones. This recognition is important to me personally and a Ukrainian-American author. Ukraine is the place where I was born. It shaped me as an individual and it continues to inspire me. While its situation remains tragic, I will continue to live with pain and anxiety, but I also know from the experience I recount in my book that we must look for sources of resilience within us.

My 2024 projects continue to revolve around Ukraine, participating in various fundraising and community projects, but I’m also devoting more time to scents and olfaction. Since fall 2023, I have been teaching at ISIPCA. I have also resumed my online perfume classes and seminars. It feels wonderful to immerse myself into the world of aromas, the universe that I still find as captivating as I did almost two decades ago when I first started Bois de Jasmin.

Finally, I’m grateful to the reviewers and literary critics for their praise for The Rooster House. Some of their words are below.

  • Charlie Connelly, The New European For my non-fiction pick of 2023, however, I’m plumping for The Rooster House by Victoria Belim (Virago, £20). “Mourning a place is even more difficult than mourning a person,” Belim writes in a deeply affecting memoir of her Ukrainian family that absolutely knocked me head over heels with both its narrative, and luminous prose.
  • Helen Macdonald, author of H is for Hawk The Rooster House is so many things at once, and all of them pull at my heart. The book is a seriously beautiful evocation of an imperilled nation and an account of a personal quest to retrieve the memories and secrets that families and states maintain. It’s a careful meditation on exile, on return and belonging, and what it means to be. And most of all it’s a paean to hope and home, written with such gentleness and deep adherence to emotional truth that to me its words become a fierceness to cast against harm, hardship and hurt. I loved it and it will haunt me for a long time.
  • Bookseller, Caroline Sanderson A Wild Swans for Ukraine … an enthralling, multilayered family story, told across four generations. Rich and magnificent. A marvel
  • Times Literary Supplement Ethereal and transporting … Ukraine comes alive through a tapestry of multisensory descriptions. Barbed by pain, this is a book as poignant as it is timely … it reflects the indestructible strength of the Ukrainian people, who so fiercely hold on to hope
  • New European A beautifully written evocation of the Ukrainian people through the prism of four generations of one family, but it is also a celebration of Ukrainian women… evokes a Ukraine beyond the rubble-strewn images we see on the television news… a truly redemptive book, strangely joyful even, one that makes the tragedy of the Russian invasion personal

  • Sophy Roberts, author of The Lost Pianos of Siberia A haunting quest – beautifully told, with stunning momentum – travelling through place, history, and private memory on the fraying edge of Europe. I loved this book: the voice, the determination, the pace, the characters, the insights into exile and belonging, into remembering and forgetting. A book where the search for truth shines so brightly, The Rooster House feels like an instant classic: an essential book in these darkening times.
  • Miranda Seymour, author of I Used to Live Here Once: The Haunted Life of Jean Rhys The familiar village symbol of a rooster on the roof hides a dark secret in Victora Belim’s marvellously vivid and often heartbreaking account of a personal quest, one that leads us deep into the complexities that lie behind news headlines while introducing us to an unforgettable group of characters. I read it in a single enthralled sitting
  • Meriel Schindler, author of The Lost Cafe Schindler A compelling, beautifully written and researched family memoir that weaves together the personal and the political and gives the reader an insight into the complexity of Ukraine’s history

  • Kirkus, starred review [A] poignant, gently unfolding . . . elegant family narrative of myriad characters traumatized by the deep-seated Russia-Ukrainian struggle. . . Throughout this powerful text, readers will encounter numerous satisfying layers
  • The i, Best New Books for May A touching memoir about four generations of a Ukrainian family
  • Blake Morrison
Guardian Part memoir, part detective story … [this] picture of a divided Ukrainian family shows how deep the divisions can be – and how to heal them means overcoming decades of silence, secrecy and denial
  • Irish Examiner A powerful memoir… tells the story of Ukraine through the lens of her own family, from WWII occupation to Chernobyl – to the trauma of today
  • Waterstones Emotionally shattering yet utterly unputdownable, Belim’s search to find out what happened to her great-grandfather’s brother in 1930s Ukraine is a haunting work of research and revelation
  • Tom Pilgrim,
Independent A moving personal journey unravelling complex family relationships, secrets and memories. Belim takes us into the homes of rural Ukrainians, illuminating their hopes, fears, struggles and traditions. Her love of the country and its people stands out in her sensitive depiction of their stoicism, hospitality and bonds… This is an honest, insightful and passionate book, that provides a beautiful insight into a nation beyond war headlines
  • The i A captivating family memoir spanning four generations … Belim blends the personal and the historical to tell a moving, century-long tale of fear, hardship and resilience
  • Foreword, starred review Victoria Belim’s poignant memoir unveils the Ukrainian roots of a family mystery. . . Belim’s book, and her work with Ukrainian refugees in Brussels, honors Ukraine’s vibrant culture and the resilience of its people. . . The Rooster House is an intimate, down-to-earth memoir that reveals the corrosive effects of secrets and the healing power of truth
  • Sunday Post This magnificent memoir is hauntingly narrated by its author who takes you through her family’s turbulent past and the mystery of her great-great uncle Nikodim… This riveting audio tracks Belim’s search for truth
  • New Statesman Sparkles with details of rural life and Soviet-inherited bureaucratic absurdity … a moving account of a still much-misunderstood country, given extra poignancy by the disaster now unfolding
  • Strong Words Stunning… an expatriate Ukrainian returns in search of answers to modern and historical riddles in the packed earth of her bitterly disputed homeland
  • Caroline Eden
Times Literary Supplement Ukraine comes alive through a tapestry of multisensory descriptions… Such descriptions are ethereal and transporting, but Belim balances them with a raw bluntness in her sketches of war and trauma… a book as poignant as it is timely… it reflects the indestructible strength of the Ukrainian people, who so fiercely hold on to hope

More information on The Rooster House, translations and more: My Book page.

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21 Comments

  • Nina: Congratulations, Victoria! This praise is well deserved. I read your book this summer and its images and stories stayed with me. Thank you for letting us into your cherry orchard. I will always think about Ukraine the way you describe it in The Rooster House. December 22, 2023 at 9:39am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much, Nina! This means a lot to me. December 22, 2023 at 11:03am Reply

  • Janet: I purchased The Rooster House on Kindle and very much enjoyed reading and savoring it before bed each night. The images and gorgeously-written prose have stayed with me. Well done, and may your next book meet with equal or even greater success! Happy Holidays from sunny Southern California. December 22, 2023 at 11:45am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much, Janet! Happy holidays to you too. December 24, 2023 at 10:56am Reply

  • Joan Rosasco: Your book deserved these glowing reviews, dear Victoria. Congratulations! I hope 2024 will bring better times to the world. December 22, 2023 at 12:07pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much. I hope that 2024 is a much better year for all of us. December 24, 2023 at 10:56am Reply

      • Joan Rosasco: Merry Christmas! December 24, 2023 at 11:33am Reply

  • Kathy: Congratulations for so many good reviews! The book drew me in as you shared your discoveries of your family’s day to day life interwoven with its history. I look forward to reading it again, and sharing it with friends and family. December 22, 2023 at 12:18pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you for your kind words! I’m so happy to hear that you enjoyed my book. December 24, 2023 at 10:56am Reply

  • Johanna: Such well-deserved praise! Congratuations! I’ve bought a copy for my husband for Christmas, since his father’s family came to western Canada from Ukraine. I’m looking forward to reading it once he’s finished. At the moment I’m cleaning wheat from our farm for the kutya, which I will then soak and cook.

    Wishing you continued resilience and also success with your teaching, Victoria, and of course we wish for peace. December 22, 2023 at 12:49pm Reply

    • Victoria: Johanna, thank you very much!
      Kutya is one of my favorite holiday dishes. It’s so simple and yet wholesome and delicious. December 24, 2023 at 10:57am Reply

  • Gabriela: Congratulations, Victoria.
    You deserve all the praise and much more. Thank you for sharing it with us and bringing beauty to the world.
    May there be peace in 2024 for all of us. December 22, 2023 at 12:58pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you so much, Gabriela. I hope that the next year will finally bring peace. That’s my main wish. December 24, 2023 at 10:58am Reply

  • Michele O. Brown: Dear Victoria, I plan to reread The Roster House as I recover from Covid. Your book has kept Ukraine in my prayers because I feel connected now. My heart goes out to the people and so does my prayers that God will end this horrible suffering. May God protect the President, his cabinet and all the soldiers who fight to bring peace. 🙏 December 22, 2023 at 6:52pm Reply

    • Victoria: Please recover quickly! Thank you for your warm wishes. Merry Christmas to you too. December 24, 2023 at 10:58am Reply

  • Diana: Congratulations! So wonderful to read these great reviews and thankful tributes; As others before me have said you deserve every bit of praise for your Ukrainian story. All the best to you and may peace come to all. December 22, 2023 at 10:35pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you so much, Diana. Sending my best wishes to you and your family. December 24, 2023 at 10:59am Reply

  • Silke: Congratulations, Victoria! I will read your book in my free days after christmas.
    May the next year be a better year for you and the Ucraine! And for Israel,too. December 25, 2023 at 11:57am Reply

  • Elizabeth: Dear Victoria, Thank you for a wonderful and inspiring website. Congratulations on the continued success of your book. Here are some recommendations:

    Scent: A Natural History of Fragrance by Elise Vernon Pearlstine
    https://www.elisevernonpearlstine.com/scent-a-natural-history-of-fragranceI haven’t read this yet but it especially interests me since it focuses on the botanical side.

    Haptic & Hue is a lovely series on textiles. I see the latest is on Ukranian embroidery.
    https://hapticandhue.com/tales-of-textiles-series-6/?utm_source=emailoctopus&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Ukraine%E2%80%99s%20Revolutionary%20Act%20of%20Embroidery%3A%20How%20Identity%20Survives%20in%20Stitches

    The Fabric of History by Virginia Postrel
    Amazing how fabric is the basis of so much of human history and invention. January 4, 2024 at 10:14am Reply

  • Nadia: Dear Victoria,
    I originally found your webpage a few years back when I was curious about perfume.

    Last week I started reading your book, The Rooster House, only making the connection now. I am absorbed by your memories and prose. A truly remarkable book. February 20, 2024 at 4:33pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much, Nadia. I’m so glad to hear that you’re enjoying my book. It means a lot to me. February 24, 2024 at 8:57am Reply

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