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Sister Pelagia and the White Bulldog by…

Sister Pelagia and the White Bulldog (2000)

by Boris Akunin

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Sr. Pelagia Mysteries (1)

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Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
This is a charming mystery by Akunin. If you like Russian authors and a 19th century setting you should read this book. ( )
  SUS456 | Aug 16, 2015 |
I did enjoy this in a weird way. I found it an interesting commentary on present-day Russia as perceived from the outside e.g. the position of the Church. The ability of Sister Pelagia to change from being a nun to being Mrs Lisitsina was rather far-fetched as also was the chase through the night and escape from the raging torrent right near the garden of Drozdovka.
I appreciated the Dramatis Personae in the front of the book and used it often.
  louis69 | Aug 19, 2014 |
I was less enamored with Sister Pelagia and (at least based on this book) would recommend sticking to Erast Fandorin for your Akunin fix. I liked the character of the good sister who was “not a nun, but a walking disaster with freckles”, and who was the real brain behind the mystery solving of Reverend Mitrofanii, but the plot seemed a little muddled to me. There were contrived events, such as Pelagia losing her glasses but feeling “no urge to go back for them” to handicap her before a chase scene, as well as the somewhat inevitable plot twists at the end, but I suppose this is part of the fun of this kind of book.

The bigger issue was in the book’s lack of focus; it seemed to want editing. There are more references to modern Russian life and Putin veiled in this story than others which in one sense made it interesting, but when Akunin interjects with “The Conversations of his Grace Mitrofanii” and says it is “permissible to omit this brief section completely”, my advice would be to take him up on it. :P It was a mistake to go 23 pages without seeing Pelagia at this point in the novel. Your mileage may vary of course!

On genius, and finding one’s calling:
“’I think that there is genius hidden in everyone, a little hole through which God is visible,’ Pelagia began to explain. ‘But it is rare for anyone to discover this opening in themselves. Everybody gropes for it like blind kittens, but they keep missing. If a miracle occurs, then someone realizes straightaway that this is what he came into the world for, and after that he lives with a calm confidence and cannot be distracted by anybody else, and that is genius. But talents are encountered far more frequently. They are people who have not found that little magic window, but are close to it and are nourished by the reflected glow of its miraculous light.”

On good and evil in man:
“People are different, there are good ones and bad ones, His Grace taught him, but for the most part they are neither one thing nor the other, like frogs that taken on the temperature of the air around them. If it was warm, they were warm. If it was cold, they were cold.” ( )
1 vote gbill | Oct 15, 2013 |
transferring information from 2006 spreadsheet
  sally906 | Apr 3, 2013 |
Pelagia & the White Bulldog is the first novel of a series set in late 19th century Russia and introduces Sister Pelagia: “a fidgety, curious woman, undignified in her movements and not cut out to be a nun.” She is tasked by the Bishop of Zavolzhie to investigate a situation which is vexing his Aunt who claims that someone has tried to poison the last remaining examples of the the white bulldogs with brown ears that her husband had especially bred before his death. That is really all I can tell you about the plot without delving into action that does not take place until the half-way point of the novel. Although I suppose it is not spoiling things too much to add that there is a second (eventually intertwined) storyline relating to the appointment of Vladimir Lvovich Bubenstov as a representative of the Orthodox Church’s Holy Synod to investigate religious improprieties in the town.

I have to admit to struggling with this book and in some ways I shouldn’t have been surprised. One of the reasons I stopped a formal study of literature during my University days was that I couldn’t face reading what I came to think of as ‘another bloody Russian’ that the syllabus seemed to be full of. I don’t know if it is the original writing or the way the language is translated into English but the one thing the Russian fiction of my acquaintance has in common is an unwillingness to use 10 words when 200 (or 2000) are available. I found the flowery, long-winded prose of Tolstoy and Dostoyesvky dread-inducing all those years ago but I thought perhaps a less ‘worthy’, more recent title might be different. Alas I did not find it so. Amidst the interminably lengthy descriptions of nothing much at all there is a story, of sorts, here but not one that kept me particularly engaged (and not one that couldn’t have been told in one-third the word count). I teased out some interesting observations about the politics of the day but as a mystery the book left a lot to be desired in that the culprit for the crimes that were eventually described was obvious almost from the outset and the way in which Pelagia deduced the answer bordered on the inane.

I didn’t find the characters particularly enjoyable either. I thought I would like Pelagia’s quirkiness but she soon turned into a kind of reject from a Carry On movie what with knocking over fruit bowls and spilling tea in men’s crotches and whatnot. Slapstick has never been my humour of choice. The rest of the characters were all pretty formulaic for the intimate melodrama the book turned into, though the way Bubenstov hid is evilness was the most entertaining thing about the book for me.

I know there are readers who don’t share my admiration for brevity and conciseness and more who simply enjoy the kind of writing that Akunin has produced here. I am probably the poorer for not being able to appreciate this particular style but it can’t be helped. For me the hints of wry humour and mildly interesting plot were lost in the flowery, tangent-riddled prose that made me want to poke my own eyes out with one of the knitting needles that Pelagia carried everywhere. ( )
  bsquaredinoz | Mar 31, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Boris Akuninprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bromfield, AndrewTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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...BUT I SHOULD tell you that, come the apple festival of Transfiguration Day, when the sky begins to change from summer to autumn, it is the usual thing for our town to be overrun by an absolute plague of cicadas, so that by night, much as you might wish to sleep, you never can, what with all that interminable trilling on all sides, and the stars hanging down low over your head, and especially with the moon dangling just above the tops of the bell towers, for all the world like one of our renowned 'smetana' apples, the kind that the local merchants supply to the royal court and even take to shows in Europe.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0812975138, Paperback)

“Pelagia’s family likeness to Father Brown and Miss Marple is marked, and reading about her supplies a similarly decorous pleasure.”
The Literary Review

In a remote Russian province in the late nineteenth century, Bishop Mitrofanii must deal with a family crisis. After learning that one of his great aunt’s beloved and rare white bulldogs has been poisoned, the Orthodox bishop knows there is only one detective clever enough to investigate the murder: Sister Pelagia.

The bespectacled, freckled Pelagia is lively, curious, extraordinarily clumsy, and persistent. At the estate in question, she finds a whole host of suspects, any one of whom might have benefited if the old lady (who changes her will at whim) had expired of grief at the pooch’s demise. There’s Pyotr, the matron’s grandson, a nihilist with a grudge who has fallen for the maid; Stepan, the penniless caretaker, who has sacrificed his youth to the care of the estate; Miss Wrigley, a mysterious Englishwoman who has recently been named sole heiress to the fortune; Poggio, an opportunistic and freeloading “artistic” photographer; and, most intriguingly, Naina, the old lady’s granddaughter, a girl so beautiful she could drive any man to do almost anything.

As Pelagia bumbles and intuits her way to the heart of a mystery among people with faith only in greed and desire, she must bear in mind the words of Saint Paul: “Beware of dogs–and beware of evil-doers.”

“Critics on both sides of the Atlantic have praised [Akunin’s] clever plots, vivid characters and wit.”
Baltimore Sun

“Akunin’s wonderful novels are always intricately webbed and plotted.”
The Providence Journal

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:42 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Sister Pelagia, a Russian Orthodox nun in the late nineteenth century, first investigates the poisoning of several bulldogs belonging to her bishop's aunt, and then the deaths of two people found decapitated.

» see all 4 descriptions

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