I'm a bookworm of the highest caliber! If you see me, I'll probably be reading. There's nothing I love more than finding a good book, and then sharing it with the world!
I began reading The Summer Guest with very little knowledge of Anton Chekhov. Ivanov was assigned reading in college, so I knew that he was a celebrated playwright and story story author. That, however, was the extent to which I was aware of Chekhov's background. I'll admit, that's one of the reasons why I accepted this book for review. I'm always fascinated by historical fiction that adapts the lives of artistic people. That line between fact and fiction blurs beautifully, and I hoped that Alison Anderson would introduce me to a Chekov that was both his real self, and perhaps a bit more.
There are three narrators who lead us through this glimpse into Chekov's life, and each of them was pleasingly different. While multiple points of view aren't always my favorite means of conveying a story, in this case it was a perfect fit. Zinaida's journal entries wove together the rich landscape of the Ukranian countryside, with her thoughts on the very jovial playwright staying on her estate. Katya's story complimented this expertly, as a way of showing Chekov's ideals brought to life. Even Ana's story was an important piece of the puzzle. Her passion for translation, coupled with the fact that this very journal was what pushed her to follow her dream, gave this story balance and depth.
In fact, it's hard not to feel a kinship to these three women, as Chekov's story affects them all in different ways. I especially enjoyed Zinaida's point of view, which is happily one of the main portions of this book. Watching the world come to life through her character, was humbling. Since Zinaida is blind, there are many discussions of the importance of stillness, of listening, of using senses other than sight. A vast amount of the lushness of this novel stems from Zinaida's outlook, and her more intimate discussions with Chekov. I was smitten, and I couldn't help but be caught up in all three of the stories being told as they slowly folded together.
This is a wholly impressive story. I am not, in general, much of a reader of historical fiction. It takes a very well written, and intriguing, story to catch my attention and keep me reading. The Summer Guest accomplished that quite handily. If you're looking for a summer read, I'd recommend this without a second thought.