Children Of The Arbat by Anatoli Rybakov

Description: On a street called the Arbat in Moscow’s intellectual and artistic center in the 1930s, Sasha, one of a group of idealistic young communists, is sentenced to three years in Siberia for publishing a newspaper.

Opening: Between Nikolsky and Denezhny streets (today they are called Plotnikov and Vesnin) stood the biggest apartment block in the Arbat – three eight-storey buildings, one close behind the other, the front one glazed with a facade of white tiles.

It is the early ’30s and we are introduced to a handful of late-teen residents, a circle of friends, and observe their interactions and ambitions. Foremost here are Sasha and Yuri.

This novel was suppressed by the Soviet Union for over twenty years.[..] The author was arrested and exiled to Siberia but was later ‘rehabilitated’ when he became a highly decorated tank commander in WWII.
Taken from the dust cover

The writing is a little choppy and I found keeping a notebook of the names helped a lot. Not a book to read in bed, this takes concentration and strong wrists – this is a brick in the hardback.

Decided against going with the rest of the trilogy, for now at least, and have my eyes fixed on Heavy Sand, a novel about Soviet Jews living in a Nazi occupied Ukranian village.

Originally a suburb where traders from the East would arrive with their caravans, in the 18th Century the Arbat became popular with Moscow’s intelligentsia and artistic community, who enjoyed frequenting the many cafes and taking strolls along the area’s mansion-lined boulevards. Pushkin himself lived here with his wife in house number 53 (the building has since been turned into a museum dedicated to the poet) and Tolstoy resided on the adjoining Kaloshin Lane. In fact Count Fyodor was said to have modelled his famous character Anna Karenina on Maria Gartung – Pushkin’s oldest daughter, who also lived nearby. Source

Children of the Arbat (Russian: Дети Арбата) is a novel by Anatoly Rybakov that recounts the era in the Soviet Union of the build-up to the Congress of the Victors, the early years of the second Five Year Plan and the (supposed) circumstances of the murder of Sergey Kirov prior to the beginning of the Great Purge.
wiki – sourced

This section is for interesting items found during my read-time to enable ‘light and well-meaning’ contrasts and comparisons *cough* within the intellectual and artistic communities today:

Russia political artist who faces jail for vandalism

Russia jails Ukraine director Sentsov on terror charges

Radical Moscow film festival cancelled in favour of Putin-backed replacement

Walls/barriers: Estonia in particular, yet the practice in general

Apropos of today’s russian tyrant: do you think the current n. korean tyrant wept when all that european cheese was destroyed?

Forbidden food and contraband clothes: the Russian sanctions quiz

The Art of the English Murder: From Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes to Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock by Lucy Worsley

bookshelves: published-2013, summer-2015, nonfiction, books-about-books-and-book-shops, true-grime, next

Read from August 30 to 31, 2015

Description: Murder – a dark, shameful deed, the last resort of the desperate or a vile tool of the greedy. And a very strange, very English obsession. But where did this fixation develop? And what does it tell us about ourselves? In The Art of the English Murder, Lucy Worsley explores this phenomenon in forensic detail, revisiting notorious crimes like the Ratcliff Highway Murders, which caused a nationwide panic in the early nineteenth century, and the case of Frederick and Maria Manning, the suburban couple who were hanged after killing Maria s lover and burying him under their kitchen floor. Our fascination with crimes like these became a form of national entertainment, inspiring novels and plays, prose and paintings, poetry and true-crime journalism. At a point during the birth of modern England, murder entered our national psyche, and it s been a part of us ever since. The Art of the English Murder is a unique exploration of the art of crime and a riveting investigation into the English criminal soul by one of our finest historians.”

Although this sent me off researching fuller versions of incidents mentioned, the worth of The Art of the English Murder itself had little allure.

The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch

[Bettie’s Books (hide spoiler)]

Description: The sea: turbulent and leaden, transparent and opaque, magician and mother… When Charles Arrowby, over sixty, a demi god of the theatre — director, playwright and actor — retires from his glittering London world in order to ‘abjure magic and become a hermit’, it is to the sea that he turns. He hopes at least to escape from ‘the woman’ — but unexpectedly meets one whom he loved long ago. His buddhist cousin, James, also arrives. he is menaced by a monster from the deep. Charles finds his ‘solitude’ peopled by the drama of his own fantasies and obsessions.

Revisit comes from a R4 – two one-hour episodes:

BBC Description: Jeremy Irons stars in Iris Murdoch’s 1978 Booker prize winning novel, dramatised by Robin Brooks – as part of the Iris Murdoch season on BBC Radio 4.

Episode 1 (of 2): Charles Arrowby, a distinguished theatre-director, decides to retire to a remote house by the sea in order to write his memoirs.

Episode 2/2: After encountering his adolescent love, Arrowby sets out on a mission to reclaim her and, in so doing, redeem the misdemeanours of his past. But a young man appears with a mission of his own.

5* The Sea, The Sea
TR Under the Net
5* The Bell
5* A Severed Head
5* The Black Prince
5* A Word Child
5* The Sacred and Profane Love Machine
4* Existentialists and Mystics Writings on Philosophy and Literature
TR The Nice and the Good

A Sleeping Life by Ruth Rendell

Read by……………. Nigel Anthony
Total Runtime……… 5 Hours 52 Mins

Description: A body is found in a rural town outside London, and the townsfolk easily identify the victim. Yet, who was she, really? No one knows her real name, occupation, or address, much less who would want to kill her. Rhoda Comfrey’s death seemed unremarkable; the real mystery was her life. A wallet found in Comfrey’s handbag leads Inspector Wexford to Mr. Grenville West, a writer whose plots revel in the blood, thunder, and passion of dramas of old; whose current whereabouts are unclear; and whose curious secretary – the plain Polly Flinders provides the Inspector with more questions than answers. And when a second Grenville West comes to light, Wexford faces a dizzying array of possible scenarios–and suspects–behind the Comfrey murder.

Having just found all the TV series of Rendell’s Wexford on youtube this morning, also discovered a young Colin Firth in Master of the Moor:…

3* From Doon With Death (Inspector Wexford, #1)
3* A New Lease of Death (Inspector Wexford, #2)
3* Wolf to the Slaughter (Inspector Wexford, #3)
2* The Best Man to Die (Inspector Wexford, #4)
3* A Guilty Thing Suprised #5
3* No More Dying Then (Inspector Wexford, #6)
3* Murder Being Once Done (Inspector Wexford, #7)
3* Some Lie and Some Die (Inspector Wexford, #8)
3* Shake Hands Forever (Inspector Wexford, #9)
3* A Sleeping Life (Inspector Wexford, #10)

3* Not in the Flesh (Inspector Wexford, #21)
2* The Vault (Inspector Wexford, #23)

Absolute Discretion by Grant Eustace

bookshelves: autumn-2015, play-dramatisation, radio-4x, shortstory-shortstories-novellas, victoriana, mystery-thriller, dorset, published-1991, under-10-ratings

Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from August 27 to 30, 2015

Description: 2nd October 1873: Chemistry student Arthur Vernet travels to Dorset to investigate a mystery around the home of the Earl of Warminster and his family.

Starring Ben Daniels as Arthur Vernet, Brett Usher as the Earl of Warminster, Jane Slavin as Alice Selwood, Maxine Audley as Lady Edith Gratton and Elizabeth Kelly as Lady Maude Gratton.
Directed in Bristol by Alec Reid.
First broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 1991.

Closely Watched Trains by Bohumil Hrabal

Description: It is 1945. For gauche young apprentice Milos Hrma, life at the sleepy railway station in Bohemia is full of complex preoccupations. There is the burden of dispatching German troop trains; the shocking scandal of Dispatcher Hubicka; and the vexing problem of his sexual performance. Classic comedy drama from a celebrated Czech writer.

Director/Producer Gary Brown

CLOSELY OBSERVED TRAINS, which became the award-winning Jiri Menzel film of the ‘Prague Spring’, is a classic of postwar literature, a small masterpiece of humour, humanity and heroism which fully justifies Hrabal’s reputation.

Milos is played by John Bradley who is Samwell Tarley in ‘Game of Thrones’. This is John’s first radio play.

Nemesis by Shelagh Stephenson

bookshelves: summer-2015, sciences, published-2005, play-dramatisation, historical-fiction

Recommended to Bettie☯ by: Laura
Read on August 29, 2015

Description: 4 Extra Debut. Having led the race to make the atomic bomb, Robert Oppenheimer soon finds himself isolated and reviled in a paranoid post-war America.

Stars Colin Stinton as Oppenheimer, Amanda Donohoe as Frances Tyler, Julian Wadham as George Tyler and Andrew Sachs as Bernard Peters.

Producer: Eoin O’Callaghan
First broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 2005.

Shake Hands Forever by Ruth Rendell

Read by……………. Nigel Anthony
Total Runtime……… 6 Hours 43 Mins

Description: The bed was neatly made, and the woman on top neatly strangled.

According to all accounts, Angela Hathall was deeply in love with her husband and far too paranoid to invite an unknown person into their home. So who managed to gain entry and strangle her without a struggle? That is the problem facing Inspector Wexford in Shake Hands Forever. Perhaps it was the mystery woman who left her fingerprints on the Hathall’s bathtub? Perhaps it was Angela’s husband who lied about a stolen library book? And why was the Hathall home, usually so unkempt, exqisitely clean the day of Angela’s death? Then a neighbor–friendly, knowing, disarmingly beautiful–offers Wexford her assistance. And what begins as a rather tricky case turns into an obsession that threatens to destroy the Inspector’s career–as well as his marriage.

Did Charles Lamb say, as per this story, that he would rather see a theatre queue than all the sheep on Epsom Downs? No sheep there when and since I was born!

'Virtue is its own reward'

'Sic transit gloria mundi'

3* From Doon With Death (Inspector Wexford, #1)
3* A New Lease of Death (Inspector Wexford, #2)
3* Wolf to the Slaughter (Inspector Wexford, #3)
2* The Best Man to Die (Inspector Wexford, #4)
3* A Guilty Thing Suprised #5
3* No More Dying Then (Inspector Wexford, #6)
3* Murder Being Once Done (Inspector Wexford, #7)
3* Some Lie and Some Die (Inspector Wexford, #8)
3* Shake Hands Forever (Inspector Wexford, #9)

3* Not in the Flesh (Inspector Wexford, #21)
2* The Vault (Inspector Wexford, #23)

A Severed Head by Iris Murdoch

Description: When Martin Lynch-Gibbon’s wife runs off with her analyst and his best friend, Palmer Anderson, the three characters attempt to behave in a civilised manner; but there is the matter of Martin’s mistress and Palmer’s sister to contend with and undoubtedly the thin veneer of civilisation will crack in Murdoch’s witty and wise story.

"You can recognise the people who live for 
others by the haunted look on the faces of
the others."

1/5: Satire on analysis as a group of over-cultivated characters swap partners.

2/5: With his wife having left him, how does he feel about his mistress, Georgie.

3/5: Martin is forced to explain his adultery to his adulterous wife and her lover.

4/5: Martin finds ever more enthralled to the goddess-like qualities of Honor Klein

5/5: the merry-go round of partner swapping comes grinding to a halt.

Très amusant. Set in 60s London, this was my first ever Murdoch back in the day…

Some Lie and Some Die by Ruth Rendell

bookshelves: summer-2015, series, tbr-busting-2015, sussex, mystery-thriller, published-1973

Read from August 24 to 27, 2015

Read by……………. Nigel Anthony
Total Runtime……… 6 Hours 10 Mins

Description: During the brilliantly depicted rock festival in the grounds of Sundays House, the bands play, the weather is fine, and a good time is had by all except one or two disgruntled locals. Oh, and the sometimes-grouchy Inspector Burden of course, but even he lightens up to the idea eventually. However, as the festival begins to wind itself down, two precocious lovers discover a battered body in a nearby quarry, and Inspector Wexford finds himself investigating murder rather than his earlier duty of making sure everything runs smoothly, and law-abidingly, at the festival. The body is identified as that of Dawn Stonor, a local girl who had moved to London, returning only on occasional trips to see her mother. As with all Rendell mysteries, the plot soon thickens considerably and little is as it seems…

This is the one with an early 70s music festival, pompous landowners, shocked Burden, cut barbed-wire fence, free love under the moonlight, and a intricately plotted MOIDAH!

“Sometimes I wish that POP was an O level subject.”

3* From Doon With Death (Inspector Wexford, #1)
3* A New Lease of Death (Inspector Wexford, #2)
3* Wolf to the Slaughter (Inspector Wexford, #3)
2* The Best Man to Die (Inspector Wexford, #4)
3* A Guilty Thing Suprised #5
3* No More Dying Then (Inspector Wexford, #6)
3* Murder Being Once Done (Inspector Wexford, #7)
3* Some Lie and Some Die (Inspector Wexford, #8)

3* Not in the Flesh (Inspector Wexford, #21)
2* The Vault (Inspector Wexford, #23)