A novel of love and growing up by Andreï Makine, whose bestselling Dreams of My Russian Summerswas hailed by the Los Angeles Timesas one of the "best autobiographical books of the century."
In the immense virgin pine forests of Siberia, where the snows of winter are vast and endless, sits the little village of Svetlaya. In the early years of the century the village had been larger, more prosperous, but time and the pendulum of history had reduced it by the 1970s to no more than a cluster of izbas. As wars and revolution had succeeded one another, the men had gone away, never to return, the women reduced to dressing in black.
But for three young men-the handsome young Alyosha, the crippled Utkin, and the older, dashing Samurai-little is needed to construct their own special universe. Despite the harshness of the environment and their meager resources, the three adolescents form a tight band of friendship and dream of another life, a world of passion and love. The warm lights of the Transsiberian train passing through give them fleeting glimpses of that other world. And when they learn one day that a Western film is being shown at the Red October Theatre in the closest real city, Nerlug, twenty miles away on the mighty Amur River, they trek for hours on snowshoes to see it. Through that film, starring the French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo and replete with gorgeous women whom he succeeds in seducing one after the other with consummate ease, the boys' lives are changed forever. Over the next several months they travel seventeen times to see their hero. And when that film is replaced by another that is equally daring and seductive, their obsession only grows.
Written from the perspective of twenty years after these youthful events, Once Upon the River Lovefollows the destinies of these three young idealists up to the present day, to the boardwalks of Brighton Beach and the jungles of Central America.
With the same mastery of plot and prose that marked the author's Dreams of My Russian Summers,this novel demonstrates Andreï Makine's remarkable ability to recreate the past with such precision and beauty that the present becomes all the more poignant and moving.
Once Upon the River Loveoffers further proof that Andreï Makine is one of the major literary talents of our time.
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