Long time ago the two famous M. Yourcenar novels (Memoirs of Hadrian, Abyss) were huge favorites I used to read often, though I haven't looked at themLong time ago the two famous M. Yourcenar novels (Memoirs of Hadrian, Abyss) were huge favorites I used to read often, though I haven't looked at them in probably 25 years, maybe more, so i have no idea how they would read today; so when this book came to my attention by chance a few days ago and I liked the excerpt, I ordered a copy and as it's a short book, I actually managed to finish it in two days - funnily, I got a very annotated copy seemingly by someone for some study (it's a 1990's edition so i found it interesting someone actually studied it fairly recently as the book is written in the late 30's, published in the 50's and it shows in many ways ) and I enjoyed reading the pencil hand written notes alongside the text too
This being said and noting the blurb above is utterly wrong as Sophie is Conrad's sister and she has an unrequited passion for the narrator Erick actually, while he is more into Conrad though in the 30's tradition (and like in the Memoirs of Hadrian) there is no overt sexuality between the two men and Erick's inclinations are only hinted, it is definitely a book of its times
There are other ways in which the book shows its age (the sometimes over the top writing, the German aristocrat soldier hero narrator who had just returned wounded from fighting alongside Franco's forces in 1938 when he tells this tale of his younger years in the 1919-1921 war against Bolshevism in the Baltic states), while the novel is more of an old fashioned psychological tale where the war and death (symbolized so well in the 3 person bridge games, Erick, Conrad and Sophie play nightly on the siblings' Baltic estate - now a White force base on the front-line and where their soldiers and comrades die constantly under fire, while Bolshevik prisoners are also executed daily - with the dummy - "le mort - the dead" in French - getting the name of one of the corresponding day's dead) is a background that frames the over the top emotions of the narrator and of Sophie whose trauma early in the war leads to her fixation on the first "eligible man" (Erick is a poor aristocrat as his father lost their estates and money in gambling and prostitutes before dying conveniently on the front in France in 1915, but he is an aristocrat nonetheless, while Sophie and Conrad's relatives have recently been shot by the Bolsheviks in Riga) or at least this being how Erick intellectualizes Sophie's attraction to him, while he would rather be with Conrad all the time after all
Eminently readable and with the conclusion mentioned by Erick a few times across the narration, so with no particular twists or turns except in the intensity of the language, but the really old fashioned feel of the book shows too much for it too be one of my memorable reads; still a page turner that kept me interested till the end
read most a month or so ago but finished it on Jan 1st as I had a very busy December, so will count for 2017!
definitely good and absorbing - I both reread most a month or so ago but finished it on Jan 1st as I had a very busy December, so will count for 2017!
definitely good and absorbing - I both read tons of books (fiction and non-fiction) about the Byzantine Empire, Ottoman Empire, the siege of 1453, the modern era and WW1, as well as visited the city in 2014, walked on the historic walls etc - and this book still manged to make me turn pages, imparted a few more nuggets and made me look back at my 5 day stay there with pleasure and fondness
highly recommended whether you are new to the city and its history, know some or know a lot about it...more