Gorsky by Vesna Goldsworthy

bookshelves: spring-2015, published-2015, radio-4, books-about-books-and-book-shops, london, filthy-lucre, britain-england

Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from April 09 to 25, 2015


Description: When the enigmatic Russian billionaire Roman Gorsky enters a quiet Chelsea Mews bookshop, Nick – himself an immigrant from the former Yugoslavia – has no idea of the impact this man will have on his work and private life. He only knows that he has been handed the best commission of his life – to create a private library of unparalleled scope and almost priceless worth.

But what lies behind Gorsky’s desire to create this masterpiece, in a land far from his birth, as he endeavours to put down roots in this new city he calls home?

1: A fabulously wealthy Russian visits a struggling Chelsea bookshop with a proposal.

2: Natalia and Tom Summerscale are a golden couple who live an opulent life in Chelsea. When Nick is called upon to deliver an art book for Natalia to their home, The Laurels, he enters a world where everything appears to be perfect.

3: Nick’s rented home abuts an enormous construction site for a ‘private palace’ in Chelsea. The owner of this massive undertaking and edifice is his employer, the elusive Roman Gorsky.

After his visit to The Laurels, Nick bumps into Tom Summerscale and they have lunch together. Tom invites Nick to visit his accountant with him.

4: The parallels with The Great Gatsby begin to emerge. Roman Gorsky has asked Nick to furnish the library of his mansion under construction with books of untold value and priceless editions of Russian classics. He also wants a section of art books which will impress a connoisseur.

The bookseller of modest means finds himself drawn into a world of endless wealth. He also begins to spend time with the voracious former Bulgarian gymnast, Gery.

5: Nick Kimović is rewarded for his efforts in the antiquarian book auctions with a holiday of unsurpassed luxury on Gorsky’s private island. The other guests are an eclectic array of Russian gangsters and English financiers.

On his return he meets Gery, who has something to tell him.

6: As Nick gets drawn in to the world of the Russian community in London he begins to learn that its richest and most elusive member, Gorsky, is driven by one thing alone – his passion for Natalia Summerscale.

But although Gorsky met Natalia when she was not much more than a child in Russia, she is now married to a wealthy Englishman. A fact that Gorsky is determined to overlook.

7: Natalia and Tom Summerscale are a golden couple who live an opulent life in Chelsea.

When Nick is called upon to deliver an art book for Natalia to their home, The Laurels, he enters a world where everything appears to be perfect. But he soon discovers that Natalia is the woman for whom Gorsky is building his lavish palace, opposite The Laurels, with every intention that she should leave her husband and renew her ten year old promise to him.

Tom Summerscale is growing increasingly jealous, and Natalia seems to be waiting before she makes her move.

8: On a sweltering May afternoon, Nick and Gorsky are invited to join the Summerscales, and Gery, at their rooftop pool. The shock of discovering the physical resemblance – identically misshapen little toes between Gorsky and Natalia Summerscale’s ten year old daughter Daisy leaves Nick stunned.

Tom Summerscale, already embroiled in an affair himself, is clearly furious. Finally cards are placed on the table in a bar in Notting Hill. But the drama has only just begun to come to a head.

9: With the discovery of Janice Allaoui’s body in his Covent Garden flat, Tom Summerscale is arrested. Nick remains convinced of his innocence, as does Natalia who feels she needs to stand by her husband.

Gorsky has moved into his new house but is left waiting and wondering if Natalia and his daughter will ever join him there.

10: Our narrator, Nick, looks back on the events of that summer in London and recalls the aftermath of Gorsky’s murder, and how the person who killed him was eventually caught.

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Nicholas Kimović, the fab narator, refers to Roman Gorsky as The Great Gorsky, and you would be right to make the mental connection to The Great Gatsby. Goldsworthy offers up this contemporary re-imagining and it is palatable yet ultimately forgettable. 2.5*

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