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The Summer Guest by Alison Anderson

The Summer Guest

by Alison Anderson

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Anton Chekhov was what led me to read this book, since I really like his stories and plays. "The Bishop" is my favorite story. This is not so much HIS story, as that of three women and how he has touched their lives. The first is Zinaida Mikhailovna, one daughter of a gentry family, at whose dacha the author and his family stayed for two summers--1888 and 1889. This fact is historically true; we know this from Chekhov's own letters. The second is Katya Kendall; she and her husband run a small publishing company in England. The business is failing and with the English translation of Zinaida's diary, they hope to recover their fortunes. The third is Ana, a translator, hired to render the work into English. She hopes the translation will bring her fame and also, she searches for a "lost" novel Chekhov is supposed to have been working on. Zinaida gives tantalizing references to it in her diary. The novel skips from woman to woman and we get each of their stories. Zinaida is suffering from an illness that will probably kill her in the end and we see how stoically she bears it. The novel traces her friendship with Chekhov through the diary. A trip to Ukraine by Ana to trace Chekhov's footsteps those fateful summers and possibly find out more brings the novel to a shattering conclusion.

The novel was so beautifully and sometimes lyrically written, I was immersed in the world of 19th century Russian life. Zinaida came alive, as did Chekhov. The novel explored the scope and power of imagination and of friendship.

Highly recommended. ( )
  janerawoof | Dec 2, 2017 |
For two years in spring and summer of the year 1888, two families meet at the Luka estate in Ukraine, Russia. Alison Anderson writes about those years in "The Summer Guest." There the Lintvaryova family will meet the Pavlovich family. One member of the Pavlovich family will become a very famous author named Anton Chekov. When we meet him at Luka, he is a Doctor of Medicine as well as a writer. He will spend unforgettable times with Zinaida Mikhailovna.

Zinaida M. is blind, suffers severe headaches and also seizures. However, she is always available for conversations with her family, friends and especially Anton Pavlovich. At this time, her most loved possession is her notebook. This diary will become the focus of a publisher named Katya and her husband, Peter, and a translator named Ana in the Twenty-First Century.

There are many delightful and meaningful aspects of this novel. One is the difference between the West and Russia. According to Alison Anderson, there is a philosophical side to Russians. Therefore, the conversations between these two and others at the guest house can become very heavy and thoughtful. For example, there are thoughts about death, the afterlife and why serious illnesses enter our lives and whom should a person love in marriage and how passionate should that person feel about their chosen vocation. Anton Pavlovich talks about time. He is aware that time is not infinite. To use the gift of time well, should he spend most of it healing other people or writing a novel.

When thinking of the title, I did have a hard time dealing with "The Summer Guest." I expected to read more about Anton Pavlovich and his family and friends rather than Zinaida Mikhailovna. This, of course, is due to his fame as a Russian author. He is the writer of "The Cherry Orchard" and "The Sea Gull" and other plays and short stories. However, Alison Anderson's focus seems to lean more on the importance of a woman's struggles during a five year illness.

This woman's life is given great significance by Alison Anderson. I caught on to her respect for this woman like a fish would to a worm. I will remember Zinaida's thoughtful conversations and her contributions to the family and her desire to leave the diary as a legacy to her niece. My point is why not give the title of the book to Zinaida M. rather than to the author, Anton Chekov, or perhaps, a title including both of these wonderful Russian people. As it stands now, the title is a bit misleading.

Yes, the author puts much in perspective about Anton Pavlovich near the end of the novel. This part of the Russian novel is very real and important too. I also would like to applaud the author for writing so much about the invisible life of a book translator.. I do not think these men and women get enough recognition. It came down to worrying whether Ana would receive all of her pay. This made me question the character of Katya and Peter. Were they truly honest as publishers while dealing with Russian Literature?

I have to write Zinaida M. does come across as a wonderful person. I can see her walking with one hand on the shoulder of someone else while carrying a baby on her hip. I can see her touching every part of Anton P's face in order to remember him, and I can see her sharing talks with her sister, Elena and their mother. Seeing this lady's handwriting in a notebook would have thrilled me beyond words.

As for Anton P., I will always see him walking from his bedroom through his brother's bedroom. His brother died early of consumption. I wonder did he think of his brother each time he passed through that bedroom. Anton P. seems like such a sensitive man. I'm sure he could hear again his brother coughing or his difficulty while trying to talk. Love, life, death, nature it is all here in "The Summer Guest" by Alison Anderson. ( )
  Topazshell | Apr 7, 2017 |
The Summer Guest is a novel about the two summer Anton Chekhov spends in a summer home in Eastern Ukraine. He develops a friendship with the eldest daughter Zinaida Lintvaryova of the summer hosts. They are both physicians and writers, so they have many common interests. Zinaida is going blind and their relationship is limited to the times they can be together. He becomes her confident and Chekhov confesses to her that he is wants to write a novel.
Two complicated contemporary women become involved in this mystery of a lost work that may or not have been written.
I enjoyed the realistic presentation of Zinaida , her progression of blindness, and what that would have meant to a young professional who was very engaged in her medical practice and writing. I felt her helplessness as she falls in love with Chekhov, but realizes it is limited to the days they spend together now and has no future.
A century later Katya Kendall discovers a diary written by Zinaida during this summer and sees it as a chance to save her struggling London publishing house. Ana Harding, the translator that Katya hires, becomes very involved in the mysterious diary and possible novel of Chekhov wrote or did not write.
I liked the ending which I will not reveal.
The mingling of the characters from the past and present made it an excellent read with a twist of mystery that remained until the last pages.
I highly recommend this book for all readers. ( )
  DianneBottinelli | Mar 7, 2017 |
Overall, a disappointment. This is a novel based on visits Anton Chekov and relatives began to make in 1888 during summertime to a guest house belonging to a family, one of whom is a young female doctor (Zinaida Lintvaryova) blinded by a brain tumor. Her diary of that time period and her relationship with Chekov, is the focus of the book. And it is lovely to read and easy to identify with Chekhov and Zinaida and appreciate their individual struggles. The novel involves two modern day women as well. Katya Kendall who wants to publish this allegedly newly found diary; and, Ana Harding who is hired to translate it. All three of the women are mired in major life events that are brought out in the book. One can see the kinship Katya and Ana have found in Zinaida. The ending held a few surprises but overall I found it ended with a whimper. I admire the author's descriptive text but feel that the book should have been condensed. ( )
  bogopea | Nov 25, 2016 |
I struggled to get into this book, although I did make it to the end, and then I felt the conclusion was somewhat unsatisfying. I enjoy learning more about Anton Chekhov (his short story The Bet still stands out vividly among the reading required for my high school English class), but the focus of this novel is more on translation. An interesting book, but one I found less than engrossing. ( )
  wagner.sarah35 | Nov 25, 2016 |
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To keep herself occupied after recently losing her sight, Zinaida begins a diary in the summer of 1888. When a family rents a guesthouse on her family's estate, Zinaida meets and befriends Anton, the middle son, who is a doctor and a writer. As the summer progresses, Zinaida's diary becomes an intimate, intropective narrative of her singular relationship with Anton. More than a century later, Katya Kendall discovers Zinaida's diary, and in a last attempt to save her publishing business, she hires Ana to translate the diary. They soon realize that Zinaida's Anton is actually Anton Chekhov, the author and playwright, and that the diary points to the possibility that Chekhov used that summer to write a novel. As Katya and Ana delve deeper, they reflect on the events and forces which have steered them to where they are, and they discover that the manuscript is not the only mystery the diary holds. --… (more)

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