Nominated by:

Saint John Free Public Library, Canada

Publisher of nominated edition:

Goose Lane Editions, Canada

Uncertain Weights and Measures

Jocelyn Parr      

Moscow, 1921. Tatiana and Sasha meet in a bookstore the night it is bombed. In the aftermath of the explosion, Sasha grabs Tatiana’s hand and together they run to safety. They fall in love. A promising young scientist, Tatiana follows her mentor, Dr. Bekhterev, to the Institut Mozga, established to study the source of genius. She thrives in the state-sponsored research institute, but Sasha, an artist, feels left behind in this new world where his art seems without place or function. A rift between them grows. When Bekhterev suddenly dies, Tatiana is prompted to speculate about the shadowy circumstances of his death. Disconcerted and unable to find answers to her questions, she plunges into doubt — about her work as a scientist, her naiveté about the Revolution, her faith in the state, and her relationship with Sasha. 

Provocative and compelling, Uncertain Weights and Measures takes place in the heady days of post-Revolution Russia, when belief in a higher purpose was everything. Written in beautifully incisive prose, Jocelyn Parr vividly captures the ambiance of 1920s Moscow and the frisson of real-life events while also spinning a captivating tale of a love torn apart by ideology and high-stakes politics.

About the author

Jocelyn Parr was born in New Zealand, but grew up on Canada’s West Coast. Her writing has been published in France, Germany, and Canada and in magazines such as Matrix, Grain, and Brick Magazine. She now lives in Montreal, where she teaches history at Dawson College.

 Librarian’s comments

Uncertain Weights and Measures is “a historical novel that feels refreshing contemporary… This remarkable debut novel is both a compelling love story and a thoughtful exploration of the human heart and mind”, author Johanna Skibsrud. Main characters Tatiana and Sasha are fully developed, complex and compelling characters, allowing Parr to tackle weighty themes. The novel explores timeless dialectical conflicts between art and science, politics and idealism, rational thought and emotions/love, past and present, producing a historical novel grounded in late 1920s Russia that will resonate with thoughtful contemporary readers. Parr also seamlessly incorporates a wealth of meticulously researched scientific facts. Shortlisted for the Scotia Giller Prize for fiction, this book is an excellent example of the fine literature championed by the New Brunswick independent publisher, Goose Lane Editions.

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