Tag Archive > Russia

The House of Special Purpose

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The House of Special Purpose by John Boyne, book reviewMuch has been written about the shocking events that toppled the Romanovs so it’s a brave author who places his fictional narrator at the heart of the Tsar’s household in the last years before the Russian revolution. John Boyne seems to specialise in writing fiction that is set in a very specific place and time, and I really enjoyed his novel “The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas” in spite of the problems with authenticity which will gnaw away at any readers not willing to suspend their disbelief; it is the sheer simplicity of that work that makes it such a success but the same cannot be said of “The House of Special Purpose”.

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The Last Station

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The Last Station By Jay PariniJay Parini’s “The Last Station” is a semi-fictional account of the final year in the life of the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy. It reads very much as fiction but is actually a tapestry of voices of those closest to Tolstoy at the end of his life. At the heart of the story is the struggle for the attentions of Tolstoy between his wife, Sofya Andreyevna, and his loyal friend and promoter Vladimir Chertkov. Although Tolstoy was from a privileged family – he was actually a Count though he renounced the title – and spent his youth carousing and gambling, even losing part of the family estate Yasnaya Polyana in a bet, he later became aware of the huge inequalities in Russian society and was very critical of the Tsar and the imperial government. In 1910, his final year, Tolstoy was as much celebrated and idolised in Russia for his political philosophies and stance on poverty as he was for his literary achievements.

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