In Makine's fifth novel, the memories of an unnamed narrator weave through the 20th century as he recalls episodes in the life of his family-experiences that include those of a battlefield doctor in Afghanistan who was also a KGB agent, a Russian villager who defied the Soviet regime, and a man who swears to avenge the death of his beloved.
This luminous, beautifully crafted new novel by much-praised Russian ‚migr‚ author Makine (Dreams of My Russian Summers, etc.) takes as its subject three generations of a Russian family, caught in the violent political struggles of the 20th century. The novel begins after the Russian revolution, when Pavel, a Russian farmer, refuses to comply with the demands of Stalin's government. The novel then jumps to late-20th-century Russia, where Pavel's son is swept into a murderous web of KGB espionage, falls in love and then loses his lover in the maelstrom of historical change. When he next hears of her, she has been murdered. The novel gradually becomes a tale of revenge, as the spy goes to Florida to find his lover's killer. The outcome, however, is not what he expects. Shortly after the novel introduces Pavel's son, we learn the story of Pavel's father, a deserter from the Red Army, followed by the story of Pavel himself. Each temporal leap the novel makes illuminates and defines its crucial events, rather than muddying the waters. Makine writes lyrically, baring his struggling characters' emotions and vivifying their oft-chaotic backdrops with equal brio. As the young spy's friends and family disappear from his life, his memories become the only things left for him; Makine renders these in brilliantly sharp detail. The arc of the novel shows, above all, that life patterns repeat themselves; we watch the same conflicts playing themselves out in the three life stories presented here. Throughout, Makine displays the sensitivity and honesty of his acclaimed previous works. Agent, Georges Borchardt. (Aug.)Forecast: Makine shows impressive staying power with this fifth novel to be published in English translation, and Arcade is demonstrating its faith with a first printing of 25,000 copies. Chances are good that the writer's reader base will continue to grow steadily.
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