This is the second novel I ve read by the author There are numerous rave reviews by illustrious writers from when it was published, and I can t argue it is in my opinion a most beautifully written story set in a certain time 1913 , place Moscow and situation an English home , and for me it was completely captivating It has also stimulated me to go and drag all my Russian subject books off various shelves in the house which are waiting to be read and put them all in one place on my TBR bookshelf This for me, is a book deserving of a place in the Very Best of English Literature, and I am certainly going to look out for of PF s work Highly recommended. A la manera en la que lo dir a Frank, si he de elegir, dir a que El inicio de la primavera es m s bien desconcertante Los hechos parecen dispersarse en multitud de direcciones que no parecen guardar relaci n entre s , m s all de la intenci n de mostrarnos en un tono burlesco aspectos llamativos de la personalidad rusa y de la Rusia prerrevolucionaria Desconcierta lo absurdo de algunos di logos, situaciones y comportamientos Desconcierta la extravagancia de los personajes, con la excepci n de Frank, el inaccesible al desaliento marido abandonado, que sirve de punto de contraste para tanta rareza Desconciertan los motivos de los actos, empezando por los de Nelly, la resuelta esposa en fuga que hasta sucabello rizado que le nac a en la parte alta de la frente parec a brotar de all con toda la determinaci n del mundoDesconcierta lo mucho que la novela calla, tanto o m s que todo lo que sugiere Desconcierta lo cr ptico de algunas partes, como subrayando eso deLa importancia de lo que queda m s all del juicio o la raz nDesconcierta lo inveros mil de alguno de los giros de la trama Desconcierta el sentido de su final Todo ello transmite un car cter enigm tico a la novela y deja al lector con la inc moda impresi n de no haber sabido captar todo lo que la novela pudiera encerrar, y, al mismo tiempo, tentado de pensar si lo que uno ha le do no es simplemente una novela original y divertida, una comedia de costumbres muy ocurrente y mordaz El inicio de la primavera me ha desconcertado y como soy muy rencoroso y como a m , al igual que a la atractiva y misteriosa Lisa, tambi nme parece poco amable que se le pida a alguien que haga m s de lo que puede hacer , mi calificaci n de tres estrellas y media las redondeo hacia abajo, ea [Free E-pub] ☾ The Beginning of Spring ♟ In March , Frank Reid S Wife Abruptly Leaves Him And Moscow For Her Native England Naturally, She Takes Their Daughters And Son With Her The Children, However, Only Make It As Far As The Train Station And Even After Returning Home Remain Unaffected By Their Brief Exile They Ought Either To Be Quieter Or Noisy Than Before, Their Father Thinks, And It Was Disconcerting That They Seemed To Be Exactly The Same Frank S Routines, However, Drift Into Disorder As He Tries Desperately To Take Charge Of Life At Home And Work Even His Printing Plant Is Suddenly Confronted By The Specters Of Modernization And Utter Instability In Penelope Fitzgerald S Fiction, Affection And Remorse Are All Too Often Allied, And Desire And Design Seem Never To Meet Frank Wants Little Than A Quiet, Confident Life Something For Which He Is Deeply Unsuited, And Which Russia Certainly Will Not Go Out Of Her Way To Provide The Beginning Of Spring Is Filled With Echoes Of Past Wrongs And Whispers Of The Revolution To Come, Even If The Author Evokes These With Abrupt Comic Brio In One Disturbance, A Great Many Shots Had Hit People For Whom They Were Not Intended As Ever, Fitzgerald Makes Us Care For And Want To Know Ever About Her Characters, Even The Minor Players Her Two Page Description Of Frank S Chief Type Compositor, For Instance, Is A Miracle Of Precision And Humor, Sympathy And Mystery And The Accountant Selwyn Crane A Tolstoy Devot E, Self Published Poet, And Expert At Making Others Feel Guilty Is A Sublime Creation His Appetite For Do Gooding Is Insatiable After One Fit Of Apparent Altriusm, Selwyn Subsided Now That He Saw Everything Was Going Well, His Mind Was Turning To His Next Charitable Enterprise With The Terrible Aimlessness Of The Benevolent, He Was Casting Round For A New Misfortune As She Evokes Her Household Of Tears And Laughter, Fitzgerald S Prose Is As Witty As Ever, Rendering The Past Present And The Modern Timeless Kerry Fried The Beginning of Spring is an evasive book that left me with questions at the end than when I began It was nominated for the Booker Prize, so I must not have grasped Fitzgerald s intent or purpose It has an oblique quality both in terms of the story line and character development This is the story of Frank Reid, a Moscow born son of a British expatriate who set up a printing business in Moscow at the turn of the twentieth century At the start of the novel, Frank is shocked to learn that his wife, Nellie, has abandoned him and his three young children aged 3, 9 and 10 , without any explanation She has initially taken the children with her, but later left them for collection at the railway station Frank seems gravely saddened at the thought of losing his children than his wife The story revolved around Frank trying to keep his business at the Press running with the help of his trusted accountant Selwyn Crane and reliable chief compositor Tvyordov and to ensure that his children were cared for News of Frank s plight is common knowledge in the small Russian town, but when he hires a very young, peasant woman Lisa as a live in helper, than one person especially the vicar s wife think it quite improper It does not help that Frank himself feels drawn to Lisa There is no news of Nellie The children sensible than usual for their age do not seem to miss her and neither does Frank although he keeps sending her letters to her home in England Is Nellie ever coming back to her family in Moscow Do the neighbors have good reason to cast aspersions on Frank s living arrangements at home Frank has the support of his colleague, Selwyn, a spiritual man who lives simply, writes poetry about birch trees, and extends charity to the poor and needy And yet, Selwyn is not exactly who he appears to be, and neither is Lisa.Even though Fitzgerald wrote a strong prose style, for some reason I could not engage with the characters There is a wooden quality to Frank who seems emotionally muted His passions seem all swaddled up beneath a show of reasonableness More seem to happen in the story than we are given to know We do not quite understand why Nellie chose to leave nor do we know her intentions for the future When the story ends, I get the sense that it is only just beginning Perhaps, this is why the book is titled The Beginning of Spring There is a hint of better days.Yet despite these ambiguities, Fitzgerald painted a vivid picture of Moscow in 1913 and created a tangible sense of place and time This is quite remarkable for an English writer We feel the wintry chill, the ice on the sidewalks we see the lamps that lit the homes that do not yet have electricity, the inner and outer windows tightly sealed, and tea being brewed in a samovar In early spring, the ice melts under the covered footpaths, the almond trees begin to flower, the city folks are back on their bicycles, and the chickens flee their shed This is a book I may have to read again in order to do justice to Fitzgerald s craft. This is the first of Fitzgerald s novels that I ve read, and I felt much better about feeling a bit lost after I d read several substantial reviews I enjoyed it, and I wanted to know about Fitzgerald and her works Alan Hollinghurst first 1 Many readers have found Fitzgerald an elusive writer though the elusiveness may be as much a fascination as a barrier.Hers was very much the art that hides art, and she had besides a horror of explanation She can introduce characters in the most glancing way, so that it is as if we were put in a room with them, alert for any signal of who they might be.If she hated explanations, she was wary too of conclusions, which are a form of explanation Well, I certainly found it opaque, and much remained hidden from me at the end, and most people s actions weren t explained so I m left to guess, which does keep me thinking about the characters and the plot and why set it in Russia in 1913 Fascinating, but I have no idea I have the feeling there must be a reason, it must have meaning, but I can t discern what.Robert McCrum in The Guardian 2 its peculiar magic almost defies analysis The closer you get to it, the elusive its mystery and technique Yes, they are elusive, as are most of the characters Then there was one review American which referred to it as a domestic comedy Did we read the same book One totally unexpected point of view came from M.D Noe 3 , who saw the birch tree as a potent symbol, and Selwyn Crane, as pivotal to the plot, most obviously as author of Birch Tree Thoughts but also symbolically Noe writes The birch broom is a tool for cleaning, literally for sweeping floors, but also symbolically for sweeping away bad weather or evil spirits, especially at the start of a new year It is both a symbol of witches and a means of warding off witches In Russia specifically, the birch symbolizes spring and young women , and renewal Selwyn Crane provides a mechanism to both punish and cleanse Frank Reid The book of poems represents Crane s Tolstoyan philosophy but also symbolizes the purification process through which Frank Reid must pass before his new beginning.I m interested in the ideas here, including the witches in the forest, but can t help feeling that seeing the poems as a recleansing fire for Frank is a step too far 1 2 NOE, M.D., 2001 Fitzgerald s The Beginning Of Spring The Explicator, 59 4 , pp 204 206. Charlie thinks very highly of Lisa Ivanovna, said Frank He s told you that already Of course he thinks quite highly of her Mrs Graham cried, raising her voice to a pitch that Frank had never heard before Show me a single man in this city who wouldn t Quiet, blonde, slow witted, nubile, docile, doesn t speak English, hardly speaks at all in fact, sloping shoulders, half shut eyes, hasn t broadened out yet though I daresay she will, proper humility, reasonable manners, learned I suppose behind the counter at Muirka s I don t think her eyes are usually half shut, said Frank You re all of you serf owners at heart Yes, this brother in law too Mrs Graham is the wife of the English Chaplain in Moscow, 1913 and Frank visits her on several occasions, requiring help with his three children who have been returned to him, after his wife, Nellie s sudden departure.This is how Fitzgerald introduces us to her He was not afraid of Mrs Graham, or at least not as afraid as some people were In any case, in taking his predicament to her he was doing her a service She was a scholar s daughter, brought up in Cambridge, and not reconciled to Moscow Mr Reid she called out in her odd, high lightly drawling voice This is an expected pleasure You knew I was going to come and ask you something Of course Restless as a bird of prey which has not caught anything for several days, she nodded him towards the seat next to her There were no comfortable chairs in the chaplaincy, except in Mr Graham s study.Two longish quotes right at the beginning of my review because there is only one way to appreciate Fitzgerald, and that is to read her for your self.In this novel Mrs Graham, I suspect represents the voice of reason From my perspective at least, she most certainly presents, the best all round summary of the male characters and of Lisa Ivanovna.Although, and I am surprised to say this, perhaps the most perfect part of this novel for me is Fitzgerald s totally convincing recreation of a man in love Most of our world is made up of the commonplace and in this novel that follows exactly as we would expect the world of men, of their machines, their social vying and competition with each other The world of women, of children, of housekeeping, the world of servants and yet intermingled through all these everyday, common lives there is the unspoken, the hidden, the never mentioned the world of sex And this is so beautifully done the attraction between Frank Reid and his lately appointed governess, Lisa.As I was reading this novel I enjoyed it, but I started to feel restless, I could see the pages slipping by and I wondered where is all this comedy of manners and Dickensian type sketching going to lead, and then suddenly towards the end there is the most evocative of scenes, which is superbly set up with a description of the birch trees, close to the summer house, dacha, where the children have begged to go for The Beginning of Spring Although there was a large industrial town three miles away, with workers suburbs and dormitories, Shirokaya could only be reached by a woodcutters branch line along the edge of the forest The nearest village, Ostanovka, got its name from the railway halt From there the quickest way was on foot through the woods, while the luggage went round by the carrier s horse and cart The carrier also came round twice a week to fill the water barrels The rye bread, heavy as tombstone, was bought in the village The tea they brought with them from Moscow.All commonplaces the details of day to day life and then you have thisAs the young birches grew taller the skin at the base of the trunks fragmented and shivered into dark and light patches The branches showed white against black, black against white The young twigs were fine and whip like, dark brown with a purple gloss As soon as the shinning leaf buds split open the young leaves breathed out an aromatic scent, not so thick as the poplar but wilder and memorable, the true scent of wild and lonely places The male catkins appeared in pairs, the pale female catkins followed The leaves, turning from bright olive to a darker green were agitated and astir even when the wind dropped They were never strong enough to block out the light completely The birch forest, unlike the pine forest, always gives a chance of life to whatever grows beneath it.This wonderful, stunning description of trees continues for several paragraphs, and as I re read it, I most clearly thought of the Rites of Spring I think music by Stravinsky And then we come to what is the heart of the novel which I will not disclose here.In summation of the whole I can only say it probably comes close to one of the best novels I have ever read and when I commented that it felt like Anna Karenina, in my notes, I was not wrong It has the same passion and same understanding of people set in the most incredible world of a wintry Moscow and the dacha slowing decomposing back into the woods Please read. The best book I read in 2011 was published in 1988 I d read Fitzgerald before and found her interesting but not especially compelling Thank goodness I read about this on a best of the year list at the redoubtable Millions website I happened to have a copy on the shelf and was amazed and delighted with what I read I think I was just too young and callow to appreciate Fitzgerald before In one of the blurbs on this copy of the book, a writer asks, How does she do it And that is indeed the question How does Fitzgerald convey the past in its essential foreignness without alienating us Here she writes about Frank Reid, an Englishman born and raised in early twentieth century Russia, whose wife leaves him to return to England on the first page of the book, leaving him to deal with his printing business and three young children The novel is set in 1913 the Great War and the Revolution are on the horizon, though no one in this novel seems to suspect it But, at the same time, this isn t one of those annoying how innocent they all were depictions of pre war life We learn a tremendous amount about all kinds of aspects of life in Russia at the time, but without any heavy handed exposition, so it s often hard to say exactly what we have learned Or, rather, that we learn something without knowing everything The prose is at once familiar, unfussy, very English, and weird, jarring, very foreign Or, rather, like an alternate tradition in English literature Lawrence, Lessing, Ballard, etc It s a small, oblique book, modernist in that way It offers lots of old fashioned novelistic pleasures Will she or won t she come back It s entirely amazing and all I want to do is read it again. I liked this declaration from one of the characters in this novel, after he has been accused of being an unbeliever Not an unbeliever, sir, a free thinker Perhaps you ve never thought about the difference As a free thinker I can believe what I like, when I like I can commit you, in your sad situation, to the protection of God this evening, even though tomorrow morning I shan t believe he exists As an unbeliever I should be obliged not to believe, and that s an unwarrantable restriction on my thoughts Maybe it also describes the general climate of this novel, which is ambiguous, mysterious, and doesn t force you to come to any binding conclusions about the characters or even what has occurred I read this a few weeks ago now and dimly remember feeling rankled by the omniscient narrator something about the voice seemed smug to me But now I m not sure it wasn t just the mood I was in Fitgerald conveys worlds pre Revolutionary Mosow in this case and histories with such subtlety and economy, I see why so many people consider her a master.
Our knowledge of what, historically, is about to happen haunts every page of this novel set in Moscow in 1913 That s a big advantage of historical fiction History itself can be called upon to supply a crackling power grid of foreknowledge Frank Reid is another of Fitzgerald s decent, likeable, but emotionally stilted male characters His wife leaves him early in the novel, taking with her their three children However, unable to cope with them, she almost immediately sends the children back The children are wonderfully precocious creations Fitzgerald is brilliant at doing children I always want of them But it s a Fitzgerald trademark to populate her novels with characters than other writers would need She s a kind of restless writer who enjoys flitting about like a butterfly, who enjoys economy and transience and leaving you wanting Sometimes I find she flits off to a character I m not terribly interested in while ignoring another I want to know better So, Frank s wife leaves him and his household buckles, anticipating the disruption that will soon sweep the entire city And with one gesture Fitzgerald has also introduced us to the new woman History is undergoing one of those radical transitions that happen every so often With such monumental themes playing out this is an extraordinarily localised quirky novel And it s remarkable how confidently and intimately Fitzgerald writes of Russia and the period 4 stars. Of the three view spoiler now five of nine hide spoiler