I bought “Laurus” shortly after reading this TLS blog piece , and very shortly after reading some enthusiastic pieces on other blogs, wishing to read it before I could form any preconceptions (or be exposed to spoilers, though it didn’t seem that kind of book)
It has the same graceful, easy way with ideas of so much Russian literature – Fitzgerald’s “Show, Don’t Tell” dictum holds well for much literature (though not necessarily for all that much Fitzgerald) but there needs to be space for fictive writing about ideas that is direct, in which characters hold forth and pontificate without too much fear of excess telling-not-showing.
The tone reminded me very much of Ismail Kadare’s The Siege – the same air of not-quite-historical-accuracy, with some very modern tones to what characters think and say, but also the savage strangeness of the past.
There was a lot of death in Laurus, at times to a degree that made it hard to read. There is a lot about healing and about medicine that was, at times, hard to read. I mean “hard to read” in a good way. The prose itself was very easy to read – the TLS blog piece linked to above makes it clear how great an achievement that was.