"Novgorod the Great"
...sorry, that's all...
...but you can click here to view chapter-headings...
What's the picture?
The rather elegant cover of the book shows a detail from a painting by
Isaak Levitan (1860-1900), the great Russian landscape artist.
Painted in 1892, it is entitled 'Evening Bells'.
The story of John Cochrane, pedestrian traveller extraordinaire, and deceased husband of the young widow Ksenia; of his infamous father, who spent his life defrauding governments and upsetting Napoleon; of Ksenia Loginova's perilous 6,000 mile journey across Siberia and the unwelcome attentions of a troubadour; of the merchant Horatio who reflects on love, slavery and arithmetic. Among other matters discussed at length in the small hours of the night are carnivorous Colombian elephants, the questionable motives of travellers, and the impatience of Chernobog, Master of the Infernal Darkness.
What fascinated me most about the story of John Cochrane is his matter-of-factness about the most horrendous disasters he meets on his journey - from the loss of his trousers to the impending loss of his life in a wilderness of icy rivers and plummeting temperatures. A close second as a curiosity is his treatment of his new wife - "Mrs Cochrane" is mentioned a couple of times in passing in the course of several hundred pages, but no mention is made of her given name, nor is there any record of how she reacted to the grim return-journey across Siberia. This bizarre treatment of the poor girl led me to thinking: what did happen to those brave explorers' wives who were left behind - in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and, almost certainly, beyond? This book is a fictional attempt to answer that question.
It must be noted that I have absolutely no evidence, not even the very slightest suggestion, that Ksenia Loginova behaved in any way improperly during her life. But, if I'd been her...
The Skinny, 22 September 2010 'The tales range into entertainingly bizarre areas... The main characters are well written and it is quite comedic at times... A good story and an enjoyable read...'
The [Glasgow] Herald, 30 October 2010 'It's fun, evoking the period...while ditching most of the ornate language that might be a stumbling block for modern readers. You couldn't make this up.' ('Paperback of the Week')
To read all reviews, click here...