Category: Nina Berberova

book of books – The Accompanist


This short tale by Nina Berberova is a story of the have and have nots but not just in terms of money but confidence and desire with Sonechka finding herself under Maria’s shadow not only because of looks and talent but because she doesn’t know how to seize the moment. As a result she drifts between liking and hating her employer and at various points actually wishing her harm.

Plot summary
A pianist born illegitimately moves to Petersburg with her mother and as they struggle to cope with poverty she is handed a life-line being offered a job as an accompanist to a famous soprano Maria who lives a life in complete contrast to Sonechka. She is wealthy, beautiful and confident but things change as she takes her accompanist along with her husband Pavel to live in Moscow. Life in a communist regime is not to their liking so they escape via the South to Paris where Maria restarts an affair with a man called Bers who has followed her from Russia. This affair, unlike some other infatuations men have with her that Maria shares with her husband, is kept secret and in the end he shoots himself over it. The result is that Bers marries Maria and takes her to live in America and Sonechka ends up scraping by as a pianist in a three-piece cinema orchestra.

Is it well written?
One of the bits of blurb on the cover said it had a quiet violence, which is true, but it is a violence that is never carried out by Sonechka. She seems trapped by her upbringing unable to come out of the shadows and compete with Maria even though she knows she could do. This short book is like a spring coiled up ready to explode but it doesn’t do in the book and it is left for you as a reader to work out just when you plan to explode and bounce into action claiming the position in the world that is rightfully yours. It also expresses the amazement and anger brilliantly when Sonechka discovers Maria for the first time living in luxury in a city plagued by poverty and starvation.

Should it be read?
For those looking for a story of tension in a relationship between an outsider and a couple and two artists coming from different levels of confidence it is a must read. The take on the revolution and the impact on people’s lives is a lot more subtle here than some other books but deserves to be added to those because it paints a picture of a starving Petersburg in the throws of losing its position as capital and lagging behind in the oppression that has already started in Moscow. A lot of the details – the intricacies of the relationships with Ber and the feelings of the betrayed husband – are never really sketched out in anything other than the briefest of ways leaving a great deal of this book left to the imagination of the reader which is a style that I find personally appealing.

Version read – Flamingo paperback

book of books – The Accompanist


This short tale by Nina Berberova is a story of the have and have nots but not just in terms of money but confidence and desire with Sonechka finding herself under Maria’s shadow not only because of looks and talent but because she doesn’t know how to seize the moment. As a result she drifts between liking and hating her employer and at various points actually wishing her harm.

Plot summary
A pianist born illegitimately moves to Petersburg with her mother and as they struggle to cope with poverty she is handed a life-line being offered a job as an accompanist to a famous soprano Maria who lives a life in complete contrast to Sonechka. She is wealthy, beautiful and confident but things change as she takes her accompanist along with her husband Pavel to live in Moscow. Life in a communist regime is not to their liking so they escape via the South to Paris where Maria restarts an affair with a man called Bers who has followed her from Russia. This affair, unlike some other infatuations men have with her that Maria shares with her husband, is kept secret and in the end he shoots himself over it. The result is that Bers marries Maria and takes her to live in America and Sonechka ends up scraping by as a pianist in a three-piece cinema orchestra.

Is it well written?
One of the bits of blurb on the cover said it had a quiet violence, which is true, but it is a violence that is never carried out by Sonechka. She seems trapped by her upbringing unable to come out of the shadows and compete with Maria even though she knows she could do. This short book is like a spring coiled up ready to explode but it doesn’t do in the book and it is left for you as a reader to work out just when you plan to explode and bounce into action claiming the position in the world that is rightfully yours. It also expresses the amazement and anger brilliantly when Sonechka discovers Maria for the first time living in luxury in a city plagued by poverty and starvation.

Should it be read?
For those looking for a story of tension in a relationship between an outsider and a couple and two artists coming from different levels of confidence it is a must read. The take on the revolution and the impact on people’s lives is a lot more subtle here than some other books but deserves to be added to those because it paints a picture of a starving Petersburg in the throws of losing its position as capital and lagging behind in the oppression that has already started in Moscow. A lot of the details – the intricacies of the relationships with Ber and the feelings of the betrayed husband – are never really sketched out in anything other than the briefest of ways leaving a great deal of this book left to the imagination of the reader which is a style that I find personally appealing.

Version read – Flamingo paperback

book of books – The Accompanist


This short tale by Nina Berberova is a story of the have and have nots but not just in terms of money but confidence and desire with Sonechka finding herself under Maria’s shadow not only because of looks and talent but because she doesn’t know how to seize the moment. As a result she drifts between liking and hating her employer and at various points actually wishing her harm.

Plot summary
A pianist born illegitimately moves to Petersburg with her mother and as they struggle to cope with poverty she is handed a life-line being offered a job as an accompanist to a famous soprano Maria who lives a life in complete contrast to Sonechka. She is wealthy, beautiful and confident but things change as she takes her accompanist along with her husband Pavel to live in Moscow. Life in a communist regime is not to their liking so they escape via the South to Paris where Maria restarts an affair with a man called Bers who has followed her from Russia. This affair, unlike some other infatuations men have with her that Maria shares with her husband, is kept secret and in the end he shoots himself over it. The result is that Bers marries Maria and takes her to live in America and Sonechka ends up scraping by as a pianist in a three-piece cinema orchestra.

Is it well written?
One of the bits of blurb on the cover said it had a quiet violence, which is true, but it is a violence that is never carried out by Sonechka. She seems trapped by her upbringing unable to come out of the shadows and compete with Maria even though she knows she could do. This short book is like a spring coiled up ready to explode but it doesn’t do in the book and it is left for you as a reader to work out just when you plan to explode and bounce into action claiming the position in the world that is rightfully yours. It also expresses the amazement and anger brilliantly when Sonechka discovers Maria for the first time living in luxury in a city plagued by poverty and starvation.

Should it be read?
For those looking for a story of tension in a relationship between an outsider and a couple and two artists coming from different levels of confidence it is a must read. The take on the revolution and the impact on people’s lives is a lot more subtle here than some other books but deserves to be added to those because it paints a picture of a starving Petersburg in the throws of losing its position as capital and lagging behind in the oppression that has already started in Moscow. A lot of the details – the intricacies of the relationships with Ber and the feelings of the betrayed husband – are never really sketched out in anything other than the briefest of ways leaving a great deal of this book left to the imagination of the reader which is a style that I find personally appealing.

Version read – Flamingo paperback

Lunchtime read: The Accompanist post IV

As her employer continues an affair the jealous but confused Sonechka plans to kill the husband with his revolver hidden in a study but decides against it but discovers that the next day he uses it himself to end his own life. The relationship between accompanist and singer starts to unravel and in the end they part.

Highlights from pages 69 – 94 (chapters eight, nine and ten)

* Convinced that Maria is having an affair with Ber, Sonechka follows them and her suspicions are confirmed in a café but she feels this impotent rage to get Maria in trouble so plans to tell the husband

* But the husband suddenly announces he is going away to England for ten days on business and so her plans are stalled but she then sees him sitting in the rain in a square follows him home and discovers him dead in his study having shot himself

* Maria prefers to blame money troubles but knows the real cause and before too long is heading to America with Bers who becomes her accompanist, manager and husband leaving no room in her life for Sonechka

* After Maria goes to the US Sonechka stays in Paris and becomes a pianist with a Cinema three-piece and lives on the bread line and is surprised when Mitenka arrives and pities her because she failed to meet her potential

“No matter hoe many times people tell me that a worm could never aspire to world greatness, I’ll never stop waiting and telling myself: you can’t die, can’t let up, not as long as one person is still walking on this earth. There is still one debt which, maybe, one day, you will recover…if there is a God.” Pg 94

Review will be posted over the weekend…

Lunchtime read: The Accompanist post IV

As her employer continues an affair the jealous but confused Sonechka plans to kill the husband with his revolver hidden in a study but decides against it but discovers that the next day he uses it himself to end his own life. The relationship between accompanist and singer starts to unravel and in the end they part.

Highlights from pages 69 – 94 (chapters eight, nine and ten)

* Convinced that Maria is having an affair with Ber, Sonechka follows them and her suspicions are confirmed in a café but she feels this impotent rage to get Maria in trouble so plans to tell the husband

* But the husband suddenly announces he is going away to England for ten days on business and so her plans are stalled but she then sees him sitting in the rain in a square follows him home and discovers him dead in his study having shot himself

* Maria prefers to blame money troubles but knows the real cause and before too long is heading to America with Bers who becomes her accompanist, manager and husband leaving no room in her life for Sonechka

* After Maria goes to the US Sonechka stays in Paris and becomes a pianist with a Cinema three-piece and lives on the bread line and is surprised when Mitenka arrives and pities her because she failed to meet her potential

“No matter hoe many times people tell me that a worm could never aspire to world greatness, I’ll never stop waiting and telling myself: you can’t die, can’t let up, not as long as one person is still walking on this earth. There is still one debt which, maybe, one day, you will recover…if there is a God.” Pg 94

Review will be posted over the weekend…

Lunchtime read: The Accompanist – post III

There is an ongoing jealousy between Sonechka over Maria Nikolaevna but finally the accompanist finds a vulnerability she can use against her glamorous employer and waits for the moment to twist the knife

Highlights between pages 42 – 68 (chapters five, six and seven)

* After arriving in Moscow life for the singer and her husband is not easy as they are hassled by the authorities and she is told where and when to perform and her husband finds his life of luxury threatened

* They prepare false passports and escape firstly to the South, which was always a stronghold of the White anti-communist forces, and then head via Constantinople for Europe finally settling in Paris

* Once in Paris the man that Sonechka was asked to post a letter to all those months before in Petersburg turns up and Ber turns out to be the secret flame that Maria is hiding from her husband

* The singer starts to go out at night and after one particular evening when Sonechka comes back late and finds her employer all on his own she almost blurts out the facts about Ber but is sent to bed

The final part of the tale comes tomorrow…

Lunchtime read: The Accompanist – post III

There is an ongoing jealousy between Sonechka over Maria Nikolaevna but finally the accompanist finds a vulnerability she can use against her glamorous employer and waits for the moment to twist the knife

Highlights between pages 42 – 68 (chapters five, six and seven)

* After arriving in Moscow life for the singer and her husband is not easy as they are hassled by the authorities and she is told where and when to perform and her husband finds his life of luxury threatened

* They prepare false passports and escape firstly to the South, which was always a stronghold of the White anti-communist forces, and then head via Constantinople for Europe finally settling in Paris

* Once in Paris the man that Sonechka was asked to post a letter to all those months before in Petersburg turns up and Ber turns out to be the secret flame that Maria is hiding from her husband

* The singer starts to go out at night and after one particular evening when Sonechka comes back late and finds her employer all on his own she almost blurts out the facts about Ber but is sent to bed

The final part of the tale comes tomorrow…