I remember asking my husband when we first started seeing each other nearly 20 years ago what his favourite book was.
I was travelling a lot at the time and was then (as now) always on the look-out for a good book recommendation – plus our relationship was still in its infancy so I was then (not now) feigning interest in what he liked!
Anyway, that’s how I came to make my first – and to date only - acquaintance with Russian literature via the rather dense prose of Anna Karenina.
Our relationship barely survived the endless passages about early 19th Century Russian land reform – and by the time Anna threw herself under a train I was so confused who everyone was with their many different patronymics that I was pretty glad to see the back of her.
Anyway, he has redeemed himself over the past two decades with a couple of really good book recommendations (and a couple of occasionally good children) – so I feel sufficiently recovered from that early trauma to revisit Russia in the form of Amor Towles’ 2017 novel A Gentleman In Moscow.
Set in post-revolutionary Russia (of which I know about as much as I do of pre-revolutionary Russia), it is the story of a Count Rostov, an aristocrat who is stripped of his wealth by the Bolsheviks and forced to swap his suite in the Metropol Hotel for an attic room and a job on the waiting staff.
It’s a bit of a slow burner, but I at least know who all the characters are and have persevered – not least because so many people whose opinions I value have told me how good the ending is…
Who knows? I might get a taste for this Russian stuff. I hear War And Peace is a real pageturner…