Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Dreams of my Russian Summers - post I

Keeping with the Proustian style this is a book about growing up in Siberia and the memories handed down from grandmother to grandson and Andrei Makine is able to talk about his own reactions to those memories and add some biography of his grandmother

bullet points between pages 1 - 86

* The main characters in the story are Charlotte the grandmother Andrei and his sister and Albertine the great grandmother and the story starts when they spend a summer with their grandmother and she starts to share memories of the Tsar's visit to France at the turn of the 20th century

* The stories told against the backdrop of a blue-lamp lit balcony on the edge of the Siberian steppes is how they learn about the Tsar and the esteem he was held in before the first world war started

* Then Andrei reads a cutting about the abdication of the Tsar and his anger boils over because he feels the sentiments expressed by the French president were false and no-one helped them

* Following the end of the summer holidays there is a passage of biography that explains how Charlotte came to be in Siberia and some of the things she did and saw during the First World War, revolution, Civil War and the establishment of communism

* Some of the passages about the horrors of the Civil War are very moving as is the story of her trek back from Paris to Siberia to be reunited with her mother Albertine

* As you would expect in this type of fiction there is a mention for Proust who was seen in his Paris days by Charlotte and it does feel Proustian in that the power of the past, even when it is about the Tsar and Tsarina and not personal, can have a powerful impact on the dreams of those in the present

The major difference between this book and Proust and Nabokov's Speak, Memory is that the story is largely about someone else - in this case the grandmother - but that doesn't distract from what is a very engaging and moving tale

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