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4.0 out of 5 stars Bitter-sweet Memories, 3 Nov. 2012
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This review is from: The House by the Dvina: A Russian Childhood (Paperback)
This is the true story of Eugenie Fraser, alias Evgeniya Sholts. It is simply told and well put together although some may find a number of descriptive passages a little too "chocolate-boxy" for their taste. The other irksome thing for Anglo-Saxons are the Russian patronyms - there seems to be an endless cast of friends and relations : Eugenie either kept a diary or else has a better head for names than most of us.
That said, the story is quite rivetting and relates in considerable detail the history of her mother's marriage with a Russian from a privileged background whose family made their money in the timber business centered around Archangel in the far North. Cleverly she includes some excellent stories about her Russian grand-parents but most of the tale is told through the eyes of a pre-teenage girl - and therefore those who wish to know more about, say, the Russian catastrophe of Tannenberg at the very beginning of hostilities in August 1914 would do well to turn to their history books or Wikipaedia ! There is much instead about the changing seasons, social custom, ceremonies at church or school, children's games, and food, including food preparation. It would not be too outlandish to say the book feeds one on a diet of nostalgia for the good old days prior to the 1917 revolution.
The last fifty pages certainly cover the horrors of a disintegrating society torn by civil war and how it effected life for her and her family. It becomes a harrowing tale of violence and lawlessness where by no means everyone escapes with their life. Nevertheless after sundry adventures, together with her mother and younger brother, she lives to tell the tale - sixty years later.
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