Category: Andrei Makine

book review – The Woman Who Waited


If there are a couple of things you can be guaranteed with a Andrei Makine book it is beautiful descriptions of the Russian countryside and a focus on a personal story that acts as a metaphor for what has happened to an entire country.

Both of those features are present in the Woman who Waited but there is some masterly story telling going on here. The narrator is a player in the vivid student scene in Leningrad and after graduating he heads out to the wilderness looking for a village to provide him with literary inspiration.

His initial thoughts are that he can produce a satirical novel based on the peasants but the life in the abandoned villages is far from humorous and then his attention wanders to focus on the story of Vera who apparently has been waiting for her lover to return from the second world war for thirty years.

Her reputation in the village and surrounding area is almost legendary and the narrator starts to get closer to making her acquaintance. The problem is he does so taking a superior position. What could this woman in the wilderness be able to teach or show an intellectual from a major city? What could her life story provoke other than sympathy?

Because the approach taken to Vera is subtle you never notice that the narrator is completely on the wrong track about her until she opens her mouth and reveals she is not a village idiot or someone who has stayed waiting all of her life. In the end the shock of those discoveries starts to force the narrator to ask some questions about himself but he runs away from it rather than facing that conversation.

Makine is almost like a short story writer weaving deep and thought provoking stories out of just a handful of characters and locations. Vera the woman remains nearly as much of a mystery at the end with the narrator having discovered some secrets but missed out on others because of his arrogant assumptions.

It shows the difference between attitudes in the town and country in Russia as well as the differences between those keen to move on and forget the war and those who cannot. That seems to be a recurring theme in nearly all of his books because the devastation visited on a generation seems to be conveniently filed away by many characters in his books.

Ultimately the truth about Vera emerges in fragments and just as he has done all along the narrator misjudges her intentions completely having the arrogance to assume that she will come to rely on him. Once she realises that her lover is never coming back and he has created a life without her she seems set on living her life on her own terms. The narrator is used to plug a need to express some grief but he is never seriously being seen as a replacement for her love.

His arrogance that led him to believe Vera was a limited school teacher, someone who had never ventured out of the village and someone in need of an emotional prop are all revealed to be wrong and in the end he runs away rather than staying to really unravel the mystery of this woman who has waited for something for so long.

Version read – Sceptre hardback

book review – The Woman Who Waited


If there are a couple of things you can be guaranteed with a Andrei Makine book it is beautiful descriptions of the Russian countryside and a focus on a personal story that acts as a metaphor for what has happened to an entire country.

Both of those features are present in the Woman who Waited but there is some masterly story telling going on here. The narrator is a player in the vivid student scene in Leningrad and after graduating he heads out to the wilderness looking for a village to provide him with literary inspiration.

His initial thoughts are that he can produce a satirical novel based on the peasants but the life in the abandoned villages is far from humorous and then his attention wanders to focus on the story of Vera who apparently has been waiting for her lover to return from the second world war for thirty years.

Her reputation in the village and surrounding area is almost legendary and the narrator starts to get closer to making her acquaintance. The problem is he does so taking a superior position. What could this woman in the wilderness be able to teach or show an intellectual from a major city? What could her life story provoke other than sympathy?

Because the approach taken to Vera is subtle you never notice that the narrator is completely on the wrong track about her until she opens her mouth and reveals she is not a village idiot or someone who has stayed waiting all of her life. In the end the shock of those discoveries starts to force the narrator to ask some questions about himself but he runs away from it rather than facing that conversation.

Makine is almost like a short story writer weaving deep and thought provoking stories out of just a handful of characters and locations. Vera the woman remains nearly as much of a mystery at the end with the narrator having discovered some secrets but missed out on others because of his arrogant assumptions.

It shows the difference between attitudes in the town and country in Russia as well as the differences between those keen to move on and forget the war and those who cannot. That seems to be a recurring theme in nearly all of his books because the devastation visited on a generation seems to be conveniently filed away by many characters in his books.

Ultimately the truth about Vera emerges in fragments and just as he has done all along the narrator misjudges her intentions completely having the arrogance to assume that she will come to rely on him. Once she realises that her lover is never coming back and he has created a life without her she seems set on living her life on her own terms. The narrator is used to plug a need to express some grief but he is never seriously being seen as a replacement for her love.

His arrogance that led him to believe Vera was a limited school teacher, someone who had never ventured out of the village and someone in need of an emotional prop are all revealed to be wrong and in the end he runs away rather than staying to really unravel the mystery of this woman who has waited for something for so long.

Version read – Sceptre hardback

book review – The Woman Who Waited


If there are a couple of things you can be guaranteed with a Andrei Makine book it is beautiful descriptions of the Russian countryside and a focus on a personal story that acts as a metaphor for what has happened to an entire country.

Both of those features are present in the Woman who Waited but there is some masterly story telling going on here. The narrator is a player in the vivid student scene in Leningrad and after graduating he heads out to the wilderness looking for a village to provide him with literary inspiration.

His initial thoughts are that he can produce a satirical novel based on the peasants but the life in the abandoned villages is far from humorous and then his attention wanders to focus on the story of Vera who apparently has been waiting for her lover to return from the second world war for thirty years.

Her reputation in the village and surrounding area is almost legendary and the narrator starts to get closer to making her acquaintance. The problem is he does so taking a superior position. What could this woman in the wilderness be able to teach or show an intellectual from a major city? What could her life story provoke other than sympathy?

Because the approach taken to Vera is subtle you never notice that the narrator is completely on the wrong track about her until she opens her mouth and reveals she is not a village idiot or someone who has stayed waiting all of her life. In the end the shock of those discoveries starts to force the narrator to ask some questions about himself but he runs away from it rather than facing that conversation.

Makine is almost like a short story writer weaving deep and thought provoking stories out of just a handful of characters and locations. Vera the woman remains nearly as much of a mystery at the end with the narrator having discovered some secrets but missed out on others because of his arrogant assumptions.

It shows the difference between attitudes in the town and country in Russia as well as the differences between those keen to move on and forget the war and those who cannot. That seems to be a recurring theme in nearly all of his books because the devastation visited on a generation seems to be conveniently filed away by many characters in his books.

Ultimately the truth about Vera emerges in fragments and just as he has done all along the narrator misjudges her intentions completely having the arrogance to assume that she will come to rely on him. Once she realises that her lover is never coming back and he has created a life without her she seems set on living her life on her own terms. The narrator is used to plug a need to express some grief but he is never seriously being seen as a replacement for her love.

His arrogance that led him to believe Vera was a limited school teacher, someone who had never ventured out of the village and someone in need of an emotional prop are all revealed to be wrong and in the end he runs away rather than staying to really unravel the mystery of this woman who has waited for something for so long.

Version read – Sceptre hardback

book review – A Life’s Music


This book by Andrei Makine qualifies as a novella because of its length but it is also a tight story around a tale told by a pianist to a fellow traveller on a train.

Just as with other Makine novels the landscape of Russia plays a key part as does the history and politics of the country. Things start in the Urals with a snow-covered wind whipped station and passengers waiting for the delayed Moscow train. The narrator moves from room to room until he finds a man playing the piano who is also waiting for the train.

The pianist helps the narrator get a seat on the packed train and then starts telling him his life story. The son of parents who were victims of Stalin’s purges he ran away to an Aunt in the Ukraine just in time to be caught up in the German invasion of 1941. He steals the identity of a dead Russian solider and manages to get through the war with a fair amount of bravery – echoes of Ivan in A Hero’s Daughter – before ending up as a general’s driver.

That position continues after the war and he meets the general’s daughter who is also a pianist and there is a crush then the bitter realisation of what could have been an awful mistake leaving the pianist in a corner playing the part of the fool. He almost plays it until the end but cannot resist showing off what he can do at the piano and then he disappears out of the daughter’s life and the narrative skips over his ten year in the camps and the wilderness of the frozen north.

He returns to Moscow with the narrator being brought up to speed discovering that the general’s daughter has had a son that he helps support. They then head off to a concert where history repeats itself as the pianist who had never been able to perform on stage because of his parents arrest now watches his protégé come out and fulfil a dream on his behalf.

There is plenty of tragedy here. Not only about the random pointlessness of the arrests in the Stalin years, the brutality of the war and the class system that continued to exist even in the communist system. But there is also something about the power of music and its ability to transcend class and age barriers and live on through the years.

There is also a hidden moral which is never to forget that each passenger on each journey sitting next to you could have an amazing story to tell if you are prepared to stop and listen.

Version read – Sceptre paperback

book review – A Life’s Music


This book by Andrei Makine qualifies as a novella because of its length but it is also a tight story around a tale told by a pianist to a fellow traveller on a train.

Just as with other Makine novels the landscape of Russia plays a key part as does the history and politics of the country. Things start in the Urals with a snow-covered wind whipped station and passengers waiting for the delayed Moscow train. The narrator moves from room to room until he finds a man playing the piano who is also waiting for the train.

The pianist helps the narrator get a seat on the packed train and then starts telling him his life story. The son of parents who were victims of Stalin’s purges he ran away to an Aunt in the Ukraine just in time to be caught up in the German invasion of 1941. He steals the identity of a dead Russian solider and manages to get through the war with a fair amount of bravery – echoes of Ivan in A Hero’s Daughter – before ending up as a general’s driver.

That position continues after the war and he meets the general’s daughter who is also a pianist and there is a crush then the bitter realisation of what could have been an awful mistake leaving the pianist in a corner playing the part of the fool. He almost plays it until the end but cannot resist showing off what he can do at the piano and then he disappears out of the daughter’s life and the narrative skips over his ten year in the camps and the wilderness of the frozen north.

He returns to Moscow with the narrator being brought up to speed discovering that the general’s daughter has had a son that he helps support. They then head off to a concert where history repeats itself as the pianist who had never been able to perform on stage because of his parents arrest now watches his protégé come out and fulfil a dream on his behalf.

There is plenty of tragedy here. Not only about the random pointlessness of the arrests in the Stalin years, the brutality of the war and the class system that continued to exist even in the communist system. But there is also something about the power of music and its ability to transcend class and age barriers and live on through the years.

There is also a hidden moral which is never to forget that each passenger on each journey sitting next to you could have an amazing story to tell if you are prepared to stop and listen.

Version read – Sceptre paperback

book review – A Life’s Music


This book by Andrei Makine qualifies as a novella because of its length but it is also a tight story around a tale told by a pianist to a fellow traveller on a train.

Just as with other Makine novels the landscape of Russia plays a key part as does the history and politics of the country. Things start in the Urals with a snow-covered wind whipped station and passengers waiting for the delayed Moscow train. The narrator moves from room to room until he finds a man playing the piano who is also waiting for the train.

The pianist helps the narrator get a seat on the packed train and then starts telling him his life story. The son of parents who were victims of Stalin’s purges he ran away to an Aunt in the Ukraine just in time to be caught up in the German invasion of 1941. He steals the identity of a dead Russian solider and manages to get through the war with a fair amount of bravery – echoes of Ivan in A Hero’s Daughter – before ending up as a general’s driver.

That position continues after the war and he meets the general’s daughter who is also a pianist and there is a crush then the bitter realisation of what could have been an awful mistake leaving the pianist in a corner playing the part of the fool. He almost plays it until the end but cannot resist showing off what he can do at the piano and then he disappears out of the daughter’s life and the narrative skips over his ten year in the camps and the wilderness of the frozen north.

He returns to Moscow with the narrator being brought up to speed discovering that the general’s daughter has had a son that he helps support. They then head off to a concert where history repeats itself as the pianist who had never been able to perform on stage because of his parents arrest now watches his protégé come out and fulfil a dream on his behalf.

There is plenty of tragedy here. Not only about the random pointlessness of the arrests in the Stalin years, the brutality of the war and the class system that continued to exist even in the communist system. But there is also something about the power of music and its ability to transcend class and age barriers and live on through the years.

There is also a hidden moral which is never to forget that each passenger on each journey sitting next to you could have an amazing story to tell if you are prepared to stop and listen.

Version read – Sceptre paperback

book review – A Life’s Music


This book by Andrei Makine qualifies as a novella because of its length but it is also a tight story around a tale told by a pianist to a fellow traveller on a train.

Just as with other Makine novels the landscape of Russia plays a key part as does the history and politics of the country. Things start in the Urals with a snow-covered wind whipped station and passengers waiting for the delayed Moscow train. The narrator moves from room to room until he finds a man playing the piano who is also waiting for the train.

The pianist helps the narrator get a seat on the packed train and then starts telling him his life story. The son of parents who were victims of Stalin’s purges he ran away to an Aunt in the Ukraine just in time to be caught up in the German invasion of 1941. He steals the identity of a dead Russian solider and manages to get through the war with a fair amount of bravery – echoes of Ivan in A Hero’s Daughter – before ending up as a general’s driver.

That position continues after the war and he meets the general’s daughter who is also a pianist and there is a crush then the bitter realisation of what could have been an awful mistake leaving the pianist in a corner playing the part of the fool. He almost plays it until the end but cannot resist showing off what he can do at the piano and then he disappears out of the daughter’s life and the narrative skips over his ten year in the camps and the wilderness of the frozen north.

He returns to Moscow with the narrator being brought up to speed discovering that the general’s daughter has had a son that he helps support. They then head off to a concert where history repeats itself as the pianist who had never been able to perform on stage because of his parents arrest now watches his protégé come out and fulfil a dream on his behalf.

There is plenty of tragedy here. Not only about the random pointlessness of the arrests in the Stalin years, the brutality of the war and the class system that continued to exist even in the communist system. But there is also something about the power of music and its ability to transcend class and age barriers and live on through the years.

There is also a hidden moral which is never to forget that each passenger on each journey sitting next to you could have an amazing story to tell if you are prepared to stop and listen.

Version read – Sceptre paperback