Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Russo-Biblio-Extravaganza: REVIEW: The Accompanist, by Nina Berberova

The Accompanist, by Nina Berberova. Published 2003 by New Directions. Literary Fiction. Translated from the Russian by Marian Schwartz.

You know, I'm really getting to like New Directions, the publisher of Nina Berberova's novella The Accompanist. This is the fourth book of theirs I've read, and the fourth intriguing, off-the-beaten-track high quality literary offering I've read of theirs, too. This is the story of Sonetchka, a talented young woman who works as a piano accompanist for a beautiful and charismatic star, Maria, and travels with her and her husband to Paris. Raised by a disgraced single mother and having little to recommend her but herself, she gives up love and a life of her own for the only life she thinks she deserves, one of subservience to the glamorous couple.

But this subservience comes at a cost, and over the years, as Sonetchka gives up more and more, her resentment grows. Quietly, unnoticed and unappreciated, she takes the measure of what she's lost, and what she might do to extract revenge. When Sonetchka suspects Maria of an infidelity to her long-suffering husband Pavel, Sonetchka begins to get ideas about the form this revenge might take. But things quickly escalate out of control, leaving Sonetchka in a place she never imagined she would be.

Read as part of Russo-Biblio-Extravaganza
The Accompanist is a short, haunting novel about sacrifice and ambition, about how circumstances beyond our control shape our lives and rule our hearts. Every character is tragic in his or her own way; even the vaunted Maria seems empty inside. Berberova is a compassionate but cold-eyed realist and her observations are complicated and nuanced. Sonetchka is pitiable and contemptible at different times; Maria is, too. Most of the action takes place outside of Russia and Berberova communicates the limitations and the sense of missed possibilities that haunt her throughout her days. It's a subtle, moving and horrifying portrait of a frustrated young life, recommended for readers with a serious interest in Russian literature and literary short fiction.

Rating: BACKLIST

FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review.

8 comments:

Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

I have enjoyed all your Russian Literature. Thanks for bringing these books to my notice almost everyday. I enjoy reading your comments and they at least suffice until such a time when I could get a copy.

bermudaonion said...

Sounds intriguing. I do think subservience does cause resentment to simmer under the surface.

Erin said...

I love how your Russo-Biblio-Extravaganza has introduced me to so many books I'd never even heard of! The Accompanist sounds like another one for the TBR list.

Zibilee said...

Like a lot of the books you are reading this month, I think this book sounds really intriguing. Your reviews are bringing so many interesting stories to light, and giving me a really good sense of what is out there regarding Russian literature, both the classic books and the more modern ones as well. I do think that the subservience angle of this book and the unremitting anger and resentment that it causes is rather interesting, and would like to see where this story goes with this. Thanks for the great review!

Audra said...

I adore New Directions -- they publish Djuna Barnes and H.D. -- my two big literary crushes -- but I actually haven't worked my way through their catalog. I should -- this book sounds crazy intense but good.

Kathleen said...

Another one to add to my Russian Lit list! Thanks Marie!

Darlene said...

I've not read any Russian literature but I have to say your reviews always lead me in the direction of new and intriguing books and I like that. This one sounds interesting.

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

You really have such amazing selections, and this one sounds like it ranks right up there. What a very interesting premise, haunting and perhaps a bit frightening. I've really enjoyed reading those books that have that haunting and sad story to it.