Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Lunchtime read: The Cossacks

Having enjoyed Jonathan Dimbleby’s journey across Russia, including his encounter with the Cossacks, it seemed like a good idea to get down the old copy of The Cossacks that has been sitting on the shelf.

The great thing about Tolstoy and the 19th century approach is the way everything is laid out with family backgrounds being accompanied by location and contextual history providing you with all the information about the Cossacks and their likes and dislikes.

But this starts with a young cadet Dmitri Olenin leaving his high society life to head off to serve in the Caucasus. He arrives in a village and is billeted with a young girl and her family and after telling himself that nothing matters like love he starts to be struck by her natural beauty.

But he has a rival in the form of the local youthful hero of the Cossacks. Added to his record of saving a child from drowning, hence his nickname ‘snatcher’, Luka is also in love with the girl setting up a classic love story.

Will the girl choose the love of a aristocrat or something more humble and familiar in the shape of Luka? Those who struggle with the 19 century style cannot be won over by this storyline.

More tomorrow…

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