Yelena Moskovich ’s second novel revels in its own complexity, blending humour and tragedy, a motley collection of prosthetic limbs and proverbs, fur coats on fire, the Archangel Michael and blue vapour... There are echoes of Elena Ferrante: of scrappy comings-of-age, communal living, where courtyards provide a stage all of their own for performance, whispers and shrieks, violence and unexplained disappearances... Moskovich’s work as a playwright shines through in these scene-like vignettes, slowly building the scaffold of each protagonist.
In the end, though, Virtuoso is entirely Moskovich, told in her idiosyncratic voice and informed by her strange sensibility. In its weaker moments, that strangeness can leave readers confounded. A grotesque sequence in which Jana is besieged by a crowd of child muggers is bewildering, and the novel’s closing paragraphs are perplexing to the point that you wonder if you are missing a page. At its best, though, Moskovich’s writing is compulsive and determined in its efforts to get at desire, grief and love, things that are as sinewy and mysterious as the blue vapour that winds through the novel.
Yelena Moskovich’s books defy summary... They roam among time periods and groups of characters, loop back on themselves via reappearing objects and colours, and purposely blur the real, the unreal and the surreal. These multi-nodal stories are not for everyone – but her books are unlike anyone else’s. She demonstrates a profound commitment to language, and undergirds a jazz-like approach to narrative with steely insight. Virtuoso is an unusual read, and a tantalizing specimen of Moskovich’s talent... A novel like this might be fun to dissect, but it is much more compelling to soak Virtuoso up, like a patch of moss soaks up rain.