The book ends and you really want to carry on to discover what happened next. That is the sign that it has got through to you and the fact it does is testament to the likeability of the author. There is an innocence here that he hints at being lost through later events with friends dying in the world wars. There is also an acute understanding of what it means to be growing up looking for independence while at the sane time being fearful of what the world has to offer.
Bullet points between pages 254 – 277
* Konstantin gets an article accepted, his second or third, and he leaves Kiev in celebratory mood with his graduation also behind him and university beckoning and he sets out for a summer holiday he hopes will include a relationship with the neighbouring Lenya
* But she is not there when he arrives at Uncle Kolya’s and when she does finally turn up she is accompanied by a painter that is obviously intended as her partner for the summer so Konstantin buries his sorrows by throwing himself into the beautiful landscape
* Near the final couple of pages he has his Proustian moment when the art of writing is explained to him by a local chemist who wants him to understand that the key is understanding the needs of real people
“’This is a big thing you want to do, and it needs great knowledge of life. Right? At present you’ve got very little of it, if any. Do you realise how much a writer needs to know? It’s frightening to think of! He’s got to understand everything. He’s got to work like an ox and not think about fame. One thing I’ll tell you. You’ve got to go everywhere and see everything. Go to fairs, factories, night-shelters, peasants’ huts. And to theatres, and to hospitals, and to mines, and to prisons – everywhere. So that in the end life is distilled in you like valerian in alcohol. So that you get a genuine essence. Then you can offer it to people as a miracle cure. In specified doses of course.””
* The last page concludes with an understanding of his mission to understand everything and a longing to get as much of life as he can out of himself and his surroundings
A review will follow shortly…