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The Beginning of Spring

The Beginning of Spring

Paperback

By (author) Penelope Fitzgerald, Introduction by Andrew Miller

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  • Publisher: FOURTH ESTATE LTD
  • Format: Paperback | 256 pages
  • Dimensions: 128mm x 192mm x 20mm | 181g
  • Publication date: 27 April 1989
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 0006543707
  • ISBN 13: 9780006543701
  • Sales rank: 39,419

Product description

Shortlisted for the Booker Prize. It is March 1913, and the grand old city of Moscow is stirring herself to meet the beginning of spring. Change is in the air, and nowhere more so than at 22 Lipka Street, the home of English printer Frank Reid. One day Frank's wife Nellie takes the train back to England, with no explanation, leaving him with their three young children. Into his life comes Lisa Ivanovna, a country girl, untroubled to the point of seeming simple. But is she? And why has Frank's accountant Selwyn, gone to such lengths to bring them together? And who is the passionate Volodya, who breaks into the press at night? Frank sees, but only dimly, that he is a rational man in Moscow, a city where love, and friendship, power and politics, are at their most unfathomable.

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Author information

Penelope Fitzgerald was one of the most elegant and distinctive voices in British fiction. Three of her novels, The Bookshop, The Beginning of Spring and The Gate of Angels have been shortlisted for the Booker Prize. She won the Prize in 1979 for Offshore. Her last novel, The Blue Flower, was the most admired novel of 1995, chosen no fewer than nineteen times in the press as the 'Book of the Year'. It won America's National Book Critics' Circle Award. She died in April 2000, at the age of eighty-three.

Review quote

'Reading a Penelope Fitzgerald novel is like being taken for a ride in a peculiar kind of car. Everything is of top quality - the engine, the coachwork and the interior all fill you with confidence. Then, after a mile or so, someone throws the steering-wheel out of the window.' Sebastian Faulks 'Wise and ironic, funny and humane, Fitzgerald is a wonderful, wonderful writer.' David Nicholls 'For the life of me I can't decide how properly to respond to this book. Whether it contains a latent moral or allegorical message, or whether it is simply a tour de force of craft and imagination I have not the faintest idea. I only know that it is one of the most skilful and utterly fascinating novels I have read for years. I cannot imagine any kind of reader who would not get a thrill from this gloriously peculiar book.' Jan Morris, Independent 'Penelope Fitzgerald has produced a real Russian comedy, at once crafty and scatty. She has mastered a city, a landscape and a vanished time. She has written something remarkable, part novel, part evocation, and done so in prose that never puts a foot wrong. She is so unostentatious a writer that she needs to be read several times. What is impressive is the calm confidence behind the apparent simplicity of utterance. "The Beginning of Spring" is her best novel to date.' Anita Arookner, Spectator

Editorial reviews

Prolific Fitzgerald (Innocence; Offshore; etc.) tackles different cultures with the same sort of intensity that Meryl Streep masters foreign accents - and with similar results: admirable and polished performances that are always just a trifle self-aware. Here, it's Moscow in 1913 and Frank Reid, an Englishman who has spent most of his life in Russia, comes home after work at his printing company to find that his wife Nellie has mysteriously departed, by train, for England, taking their three children With her. But the three children turn up the next day, back in Moscow, without mama. And from this point on, things keep getting curiouser and curiouser for Frank. First, there is the matter of the drunken bear cub ransacking a dining room, smashing china and destroying 23 bottles of the finest vodka. Then there is the break-in at the printing press - where a young student fires his gun at Frank. And, finally, there is the discomfiting attraction that Frank feels for Lisa Ivanovna - the silent peasant gift he has hired to look after his children. In the end, the conceit is that nothing is quite what it seemed: Nellie is not a monster who has abandoned her family; Frank's faithful assistant, Selwyn, is not just a vague, good-hearted disciple of Tolstoy; Lisa Ivanovna is very much more than a simple governess. And Moscow itself is not the place it seemed to be. Meanwhile, Fitzgerald enhances the quirky energy of her story with details that seem both real and dreamlike: "the reek of tar and buckwheat pancakes"; "the sounds of a hundred bells chiming in the square"; "the potent leaf sap of the birch trees." Fitzgerald's latest sometimes has all the crackle of the breaking ice on the Moskva River - but too often the ice floes seem sculpted here, arranged on the river just to dazzle us. (Kirkus Reviews)