Death and the Penguin Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of Death and the Penguin

Set in the Ukrain just after the the collapse of the Soviet Union, Death and the Penguin tells of the story of an author named Victor and his depressed penguin, Misha. In their struggle to make a living, Victor gets a job writing obituaries for a city newspaper, all seems to go well at first... until the unexplained letters and parcels start arriving, and the requests for obituaries just keep coming and Victor finds himself wrapped up in something far more sinister involving murder, corruption, fraud and he begins to realise that obiturary writing is not as simple as it seems - especially as most of his subjects are, at present, still alive...
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The review of this Book prepared by bonzai

Viktor, a lonely journalist nearing 40, lives in Kiev with an Emperor penguin he adopted a year ago when the zoo gave up many of the animals it could no longer afford to feed. Misha, the penguin, lives a quiet, subdued life consisting of little more than a steady diet of fish and cold baths. A newspaper hires Viktor to write advance obituaries -- summings-up of notable persons' lives to be kept on file for the day the subject dies. One day, a sinister but friendly visitor, also named Misha, passes along his own obit assignments for very good money. When Viktor complains about having composed more than a hundred obits but having nothing published, the visitor asks which Viktor thinks is his best piece ... and within a day, the subject is dead! More assignments come from the mobster ("Misha-not-penguin"), who also leaves his young daughter with Viktor "for a short time," but never returns. Little Sonya comes with a big packet of money, so Viktor is able to hire 20-year-old Nina as a day nanny for her. Soon, this quasi-family is settled in for the long haul -- with their penguin -- except that more and more of Viktor's obituary subjects get killed! This novel is written in a dry, simple style. The chapters are short, the narrative rarely embellished. Though there is plenty of humor, it is not laugh-out-loud but of the wry-smile-to-oneself variety. It's not magic realism, but straight realistic narrative of people (and penguin) behaving quite plausibly under increasingly-odd circumstances. It's a queerly unsensational story that seems perversely matter-of-fact, but accelerates to a sudden and very satisfying climax.
The review of this Book prepared by David Loftus

Chapter Analysis of Death and the Penguin

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Plot & Themes

Time/era of story    -   1980's-1999 Animal story    -   Yes Kind of animal:    -   bird Crime & Police story    -   Yes Story of    -   Mafia conflict Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book

Main Character

Gender    -   Male Profession/status:    -   journalist    -   writer Age:    -   20's-30's Ethnicity/Nationality    -   Russian


How much descriptions of surroundings?    -   3 () Asia/Pacific    -   Yes Asian country:    -   Russia City?    -   Yes City:    -   dirty, grimy (like New York)    -   dangerous

Writing Style

Sex in book?    -   Yes What kind of sex:    -   vague references only    -   descript of kissing Amount of dialog    -   roughly even amounts of descript and dialog    -   significantly more descript than dialog

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Andrey Kurkov Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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