this is rather wonderful and wholly unexpected and not just in the sense that what francis spufford writes is always unexpected, but in the sense that you don't bank on this much enjoyment from a collection of linked short stories all bound together by the economics of soviet central planning during the khrushchev era (with extensive notes and appendices). It's history! says the dust jacket, It's fiction! It's a comedy of ideas! except that it's not in the least bit zany despite it's glorious refusal to recognise genre boundaries. it's rich and serious and deeply moving in parts. also you really do come out the other end understanding quite a lot about the disastrous economics of the soviet union in the 1960s.