the rooster house: 15 posts

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

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Estonia and Denmark Visits : Tallinn and Copenhagen Book Events

I’m delighted to share that my book The Rooster House was selected among “The Best Books of 2023” by Waterstones. I’m grateful for this recognition and I thank all of my readers for your support.

As I mentioned in my previous newsletter, I will be in Estonia and Denmark to speak about The Rooster House. It’s been such a pleasure to meet my readers on these travels, especially those who have been following Bois de Jasmin for years. Your support throughout my journey has been invaluable.

On this note, many thanks to everyone who gave me recommendations for Munich and Leipzig. I had very little free time in Munich, but your suggestions helped me plan efficiently and I managed to get a sense of the city, visit a couple of churches and Alte Pinakothek, which is one of the most impressive museums I’ve seen.

There have been many book news recently, but next week I will have another exciting announcement, so please stay tuned.

Tallinn, Estonia

30.10.23 17.00
Tallinna Viru Keskuse Rahva Raamat

Presentation of Victoria Belim’s book “The Rooster House”.
We are waiting for you on Monday, October 30 at 17:00 at the presentation of Victoria Belim’s book The Rooster House in Viru Keskus Rahva Raamata!

I will be in conversation with Annikky Lamp, the translator of my book and the author of a wonderful blog Life in a Cold Climate. Anniky wrote a thoughtful article about translating The Rooster House and her decision to take on this project: The Rooster House: A Deeply Personal Love Letter to Ukraine.

“The moving memoir tells the story of one family and the whole of Ukraine from the complicated history to the dangerous present. It tells a fascinating story of parents and children, loyal Bolsheviks and victims of communism, gardens and art, mysteries and long-kept secrets.”

You can find more details via https://www.facebook.com/events/773516434464677 and https://rahvaraamat.ee/event/206/et

Copenhagen, Denmark

I will participate in Bogforum in November. Bogforum is one of the largest book fairs in the region and an important event in Denmark. I will be on stage on Saturday, November 4th at 15.20-16.05.

More details via https://program.bogforum.dk/aktivitet/ukraine-i-fokus-victoria-belim/

Berlin, Munich and Leipzig Recommendations

I already shared that I will be visiting Germany to speak about Ukraine and my book The Rooster House. I also would like to ask you for your recommendations on what to visit and see in Berlin, Munich and Leipzig. I’ve been to Berlin and Leipzig before, but this will be my first trip to Munich.

Below is my program for these three cities. After I return from Germany, I will be going to Tallinn and Copenhagen for the book events. I will share more details closer to the date.

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My German Trip and Book Readings

I will be in Germany from October 18th to 26th teaching a writing seminar and talking about Ukraine and my book The Rooster House. I will be visiting Frankfurt, Berlin, Munich, and Leipzig. I hope that I can meet some of you during my visit.

October 18th, Frankfurt

Frankfurt Book Fair, Ukrainian Collective Stand/ Hall:4.1. Stand: B

16:00-17:00
The Rooster House: My Ukrainian Family Story
Victoria Belim (Writer, journalist, translator, and fragrance specialist). Moderator: Kyrylo Beskorovainyi (Co-founder of Kunsht).

Ukrainian Book Institute, Goethe-Institut, U.S. Consulate General Frankfurt

In 2014, the landmarks of Victoria Belim’s personal geography were plunged into tumult at the hands of Russia. Her hometown, Kyiv, was gripped by protests and violence. Crimea, where she’d once been sent to school to avoid radiation from the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl, was invaded. Kharkiv, where her grandmother Valentina studied economics and fell in love; Donetsk, where her father once worked; and Mariupol, where she and her mother bought a cherry tree for Valentina’s garden, all became battlegrounds. Victoria, by then a naturalized American citizen then living in Brussels, felt she had to go back. She had to spend time with her aging grandmother and her cousin Dmytro. She had to unravel a family mystery spanning several generations. And she needed to understand how her country’s tragic history of communist revolution, civil war, famine, world war, totalitarianism, and fraught independence had changed the course of their lives. A young woman’s quest to uncover her family’s difficult past reveals broader truths about the present conflict. Victoria Belim’s memoir is a personal history of her family’s turbulent past and a celebration of Ukrainian identity. The German translation was published as “Rote Sirenen. Die Geschichte meiner ukrainischen Familie“ with Aufbau Verlag.
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Trip to Kharkiv : From The Rooster House

The news of another Russian attack shook me, because it touched Kharkiv and claimed more than 50 lives. I couldn’t read the news without breaking down in tears. Kharkiv is Ukraine’s second-largest city, located in the northeast of the country. It’s about an hour by train by Poltava, and in my family’s geography, Kharkiv has a special place. That’s where my grandmother Valentina studied at the university, met her future husband Boris and had my mother. I wanted to give you our personal sense of this luminous city by sharing an excerpt from my book, The Rooster House. The scene describes our return to Kharkiv for Valentina to discover it after many years away and for me to discover yet another mystery.

Kharkiv was waking up to the rustle of the street cleaners’ brooms, the melodic whine of trams speeding down narrow alleys and the glare of the morning sun. Valentina and I took a bus from the train station, crossed a bridge over a muddy river and drove past old buildings draped in advertisements for manicures, beer on tap and legal help. The imposing blocks of the Soviet novostroiki, literally ‘new buildings’ that were no longer new, sidled up next to modern churches that aimed to look old.

Despite the changes the city had undergone since Valentina was a student, I could easily imagine what she must have felt on her first visit. Kharkiv had neither the splendour of Kyiv nor the bucolic charm of Poltava, but it had grandeur. The buildings were massive; the streets were wide; the monuments outsized. Kharkiv was also a town of memorial plaques. On every corner, a hero had died and a poet had penned a verse. I also noticed many blank spots where plaques had been removed. Some heroes were heroes no longer.

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