Review / Genius Under the Table

20211015ma_3661Book: Genius Under the Table (2021)
Author: Eugene Yelchin
Genre: MG, Historical (1970s)

Opening lines from the book …
The first time I saw real American tourists, they hopped out of a tourist bus in Red Square in Moscow and cut in front of us in line. “Nice manners!” my mother shouted. “We’ve been freezing our butts off for hours and they just breeze in like that?”


1) The title is a reference to Yevgeny’s place to sleep… and yes, since the whole family sleeps in the same room, that means his place is under the big table! He uses the privacy of this space to work on his drawings. I love that! The kid in me definitely wants to sleep under the table too!

2) I love this author’s depiction of life in the Soviet Union in the 1970s. I felt for young Yevgeny over the idea that to succeed in Soviet society, he must discover his great talent. His brother is a talented figure skater. (Super fun scene where he uses Yevgeny for weight-lifting when he moves over to pairs figure skating.) And there’s the back story about the mom and her own talent. She wants Yevgeny to be a great ballet dancer like Baryshnikov. (Let’s just say, Yevgeny has a different talent than ballet.)

3) The Dad! I loved him so much! The best line is when he talks about genius under the table. (The only thing that really makes me sad about the dad is that he still does not quite see the problem with communism, even if he realizes that Stalin is not as flawless as the State would have them think.)

4) There’s a scene that made me cry… it was so heartbreaking. And I will leave it at that.

5) I thought the connection with Baryshnikov (the ballet dancer) was great. It works really well into Yevgeny’s own story and adds that tidbit of historical happening to this story that I love so much. I definitely did a bit of research on Baryshnikov after reading this book!


This book is so powerful. And wonderful. (I may be a bit prejudiced as I love reading books about the Soviet Union since my own grandmother spent her childhood there.) I loved the peek into Soviet life in the 1970s. I’d also recommend this author’s Breaking Stalin’s Nose, which was a Newbery Honor book.

(P.S. Thank you to Rosi Hollinbeck for this book! I won it as a giveaway. Thank you, thank you, thank you!)


Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

7 thoughts on “Review / Genius Under the Table

  1. I remember Rosi featuring this title and really want to give it a read. You have ignited the flame and this time it’s on top of my future reading list. The setting and time period are perfect for the story. Thanks for featuring on MMGM.


  2. I’ve heard a ton of praise for this book (including from Rosi Hollinbeck, who gave you the book!), and it really does sound excellent! It definitely sounds like Yevgeny was under a lot of pressure to find his calling—although, if I recall, this is a memoir, so I guess he did find his talent after all (writing!). And it really does sound like a powerful read too. Also, I didn’t get a chance to comment on your photo challenge post, but the photo is beautiful! Thanks so much for the great review, Maria, and happy Thanksgiving!


  3. I have an ARC of this book that I’ll be reading soon. So, enjoyed reading your review. Forgot it was in the Soviet Union. That’s why I must have picked it because of love stories about the country and almost went there in 1972, while I was in college. Look forward to reading this story. Think I had a past life there because of how much I studied Russian history and the language (2 yrs) while in college. Thanks for your review.


  4. Pingback: My Top Reads… from 2021 | Of Maria Antonia

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