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Siberian Dream

The prospect of reading a model’s memoirs might ordinarily make you consider more attractive alternatives, like root-canal work. But Irina Pantaeva is no ordinary model and Siberian Dream proves that. A Buryat (an indigenous people from northernmost Mongolia), she was born in Siberia and often escaped her drab apartment block in the sullen Soviet city of Ulan-Ude to visit her grandparents in their village near Lake Baikal. Her family’s traditional songs, legends, and rituals recalled the Buryats’ romantic nomadic past. So this story of how the daughter of theatrical parents survived Marxist-Leninist regimentation, Siberian winters, and near rapes to make it to Moscow, Paris, and New York couldn’t miss if she were also a decent writer. And she is actually an enchanting one — so much so that you have to wonder if some of her anecdotes, ranging from amorous to occult, are too good to be true. A

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