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The Season of Poisoned Fruits


English sample available

Top 10 on the national bestsellers charts for two years

With this melancholic and sad love story Vera Bogdanova throws limelight to the suppressed psychological traumas torturing people in their forties in modern Russia, and smartly navigates through the social (and political) turmoil of the violent 1990s through the oughts – the time of terror, abuse, and a normalized violence. The message is bitter: we are poisoned fruits, the fruits of delusions, obsessions and uncertainty of our time.

Since early childhood, Zhenya was told that she should be a good girl: get higher education, build a career, get married and have children, all this before she’s thirty. And yet there she is – hitting thirty, no longer able to have children or known to set healthy boundaries, secretly struggling with alcohol addiction, hiding away literally at the end of the world, and still pining for the only person she ever loved, a man she has known since childhood – her cousin Ilya. They have been irresistibly drawn to each other since sixteen, and Zhenya sees this forbidden and devastating love affair as her only comfort, and her curse. Not only has it brought doom on her own head, but on anyone she’s ever known, or so she feels.


Ilya, in the meantime, is just as desperate to be “a real man”: to earn more, provide for his family, never have to beg, show weakness, or witness the abuse his mother suffered from the violent thug of a stepfather. Ilya, too, hides a dark secret, bearing the guilt for his stepfather’s apparently accidental death. But none of his efforts to conform to the “social norm” pays off or brings relief – his life is stuck in a rut and he himself in an unhappy marriage, unable to break the vicious work-sleep-mortgage circle.


His half-sister Dasha, on the other hand, unable to embrace her own sexuality (and her unrequited teenage attraction to Zhenya), still sees her abusive father as a role model, and time after time falls for the same wife-basher type. One of them becomes her husband, and this union threatens Dasha's life.


Each of them faces their own demons, failing to see how their choices end up ruining the lives of others – and their own.


Set against the dramatic backdrop of early to mid 2000s, with its terrorist attacks, Beslan school siege, London bombings and general chaos, their stories echo with the historical turmoil in a desperate search of a new identity.


Season of Poisoned Fruits is the story of a generation that grew up in the 90s, children of parents who survived in the chaos having plunged the country. Today these children have grown up and they seek security and stability they were deprived of, also desperately searching for their own selves. Yet would they find a “new beautiful world” or the poison from the fruits of the past won’t let them see the way?

With her novel Bogdanova makes a diagnosis of the whole generation with clarity, bitterness and compassion, like no other modern Russian writer.


This is like Nabokov’s Ada – the pain and gloom of the 90ies and the early aughts: a granny’s country house, a family saga, strange backyards, the family blood. Today this all is neither wildly exotic nor noirish – we have survived, have grown up and so we can speak about what it is like to be a strange girl in a strange time. Vera Bogdanova unwinds traumas and fates of her characters carefully and gently, like blood-soaked bandage. Bogdanova is not trying to make her characters suffer to amuse some hypothetical reader. On the contrary, she seeks ways to save them all. She succeeds, eventually, even with those who cannot be saved.

— Tatsiana Zamirovskaya, the author of The Deadnet


The first thing you want to do when you finish the novel is name it the book of the generation. The 90s, the aughts, economic downfall and consumerism, Soviet and post-Soviet patriarchal norms, domestic violence, terroristic attacks on the news, upsurging nationalistic movements at the backdrop, a suppressed sexuality and liberation from inhibitions and social restrains – all these contexts intertwine in a smartly contrived plot. 

— Rules of Life (former Esquire)


With her novel, Vera Bogdanova gives a chance to speak up and fight back to those women who have long been used to keep quiet and endure.

— Yunost magazine


In The Season of Poisoned Fruits the violence is a norm, while happiness is doomed. There’re no positive characters in the novel, yet quite a lot of typical ones, easy to recognize: these are words we heard from the family, these are traumas we wished to share… We are all the rotten bitter fruits of our time, producing nothing more than disappointment. <…> A common love story turns into a smartly contrived, complex psychological drama about feelings and historical memory. 

— Afisha Daily


Formally, the story revolves around the love affair between Zhenya and Ilya, her cousin. Yet this is just a way to tell a different, brighter, story, that of loveless and neglectful relationship within a family and an absolute absence of respect between people. Vera Bogdanova is not avoiding such themes as trauma, domestic violence, family bulling, yet the author is not set to proclaim a social manifesto. The author’s clear talent allows her to masterly articulate the very intimate personal worries.


The Season of Poisoned Fruits is the novel about a generation squeezed between patriarchal norms from the elderly, common anxiety and a father’s fist on the one side, and an absolute uncertainty in either present or future with terroristic attacks and explosions in the background, on the other.

Book details

Elena Shubina Publishing (AST)

Novel, 2022

348 pp

Rights sold

  • French Actes Sud

Literary awards

  • Nominated for the Big Book Award 2022

  • Nominated for the New Literature Award 2022

  • Nominated for Yasnaya Polyana Prize 2022

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