Wednesday, August 3, 2016

THE RUSSIAN GIRL by Kingsley Amis

Richard is a professor of Slavic studies who thinks that reading English translations of Russian classics is a cop-out.  He’s married to Cordelia, who controls the purse strings, but falls for Russian poet Anna, whose poetry leaves a lot to be desired.  Herein lies the dilemma.  Anna’s brother is in a Russian prison, and she has the idea that if she can gain some acclaim for her work in England, she will be able to pressure the Russian authorities into releasing her brother.  To affirm her literary clout, Richard and his colleagues must sign a petition praising the value of her poetry.  Richard, therefore, has to choose between maintaining his professional integrity and showing support for the woman he loves.  He goes to some lengths to find someone who will dispute his low opinion of Anna’s poetry, but no such luck, even though he is moved to tears by one of her readings.  So two questions dominate the story:  Will Richard sign the petition?  And will Anna still love him if he doesn’t?  In case you’re feeling sorry for poor Cordelia, don’t.  She is not a sympathetic character at all, and she goes on a vindictive tear that is possibly warranted with regard to vengeance against Richard, but the collateral damage is not.  Despite the somewhat humorous turn of phrase now and then, this book just did not hold my attention.  Occasionally it’s OK for me to read a book that makes me sleepy so that I can get some much needed rest.  Still, I’d rather spend my time with a more riveting read.

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