The Russians Are Coming

Other than one intense novel I read draped over an ill-advised treadmill, I believe I read most of the Russians during summer holidays at the Jersey Shore. Dostoevsky often forced me to re-read a passage to keep things straight, but Tolstoy’s fiction was smooth and delicious. I read War and Peace in twelve days, lugging that brick of a novel from the gentle warmth of the sun & sand to evenings exploring those quaint seashore shops you tediously browsed every summer for the last ten years with no new surprises.

It’s an old story but true: one afternoon after the late sunbathers had retired to the showers and shrimp baskets, I was sitting in my low beach chair with the sandy breeze fluffing my full white beard, when a very distraught young mother with a pleading lower lip and an excited daughter in tow. came up and in soto voche explained that her daughter insisted I was Santa Claus and could I just say something to her? Ho, Ho, Ho, then back to War & Peace.

Now I am reading Vasili Grossman’s Stalingrad and can reveal that Grossman is an even easier read than Tolstoy. But a warning: they’re all big fat books. Although Stalingrad is historically the earlier novel, it was written after Life and Fate. Forever Flowing (curiously short) came next.

But if the Russians are not tempting you, there are a few other titles on this month’s list (again, they’re all big fat ones).

  1. Cecilia — Fanny Burney
  2. The Magician’s Trilogy — Lev Grossman
  3. Stalingrad — Vasily Grossman
  4. The Princess Cassamassima — Henry James
  5. The Executioner’s Song — Norman Mailer
  6. Le Morte d’Arthur — Thomas Malory
  7. Maiden Castle — John Cowper Powys
  8. The Books of Jacob — Olga Tokarczuk

2 thoughts on “The Russians Are Coming

    1. A thousand pages but a simple and compelling read. Yet there are more Russians than Grossman, Tolstoy, and Dostoevsky. An overlooked but excellent historical novel by the author of Master and Margarita—Mikhail Bulgakov—is White Guard.

      Liked by 1 person

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