Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Review: The Summer Guest by Alison Anderson

The Summer Guest cover

What if Anton Chekhov, undisputed master of the short story, secretly wrote a novel—a manuscript hidden long ago that might have survived?

This tantalizing possibility drives The Summer Guest, a spellbinding story that draws together, across two centuries, the lives of three women through a moving, mysterious diary.

During the long, hot summer of 1888, an extraordinary friendship blossoms between Anton Chekhov and a young doctor named Zinaida Lintvaryova. Recently blinded by illness, Zinaida has retreated to her family’s estate in the lush countryside of eastern Ukraine, where she is keeping a diary to record her memories of her earlier life. But when the Chekhov family arrives to spend the summer at a dacha on the estate, and she meets the middle son, Anton Pavlovich, her quiet existence is transformed by the connection they share. What begins as a journal kept simply to pass the time becomes an intimate, introspective narrative of Zinaida’s singular relationship with this writer of growing fame.

More than a century later, in 2014, the publication of Zinaida’s diary represents Katya Kendall’s last chance to save her struggling London publishing house. Zinaida’s description of a gifted young man still coming to terms with his talent offers profound insight into a literary legend, but it also raises a tantalizing question: Did Chekhov, known only as a short-story writer and dramatist, write a novel that has since disappeared? The answer could change history, and finding the manuscript proves an irresistible challenge for Ana Harding, the translator Katya hires. Increasingly drawn into Zinaida and Chekhov’s world, Ana is consumed by her desire to find the “lost” book. As she delves deeper into the moving account of two lives changed by a meeting on a warm May night, she discovers that the manuscript is not the only mystery contained within the diary’s pages.

Inspired by the real-life friendship between Chekhov and the Lintvaryov family, The Summer Guest is a masterful and utterly compelling novel that breathes life into a vanished world while exploring the transformative power of art and the complexities of love and friendship.


• Hardcover: 400 pages
• Publisher: Harper (May 24, 2016)
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****

As a reader I am always attracted to books with a literary theme and with this one in a location I read little of, I was excited to read The Summer Guest.  A new author is always fun but also met with a little apprehension at the same time. I can say that I was not disappointed.

There is a lot going on here.  With Russian playwright Anton Chekhov and Zinaida Lintvaryova meeting at her Ukrainian estate in the past storyline (1888) and then jumping to present day with 2 women with their own issues.  But when they dig into Zinaida's diary about their time together, well lets just say it's a great story.  The plot isn't busy or overwhelming but Alison  Anderson was able to deliver an exciting story that kept me glued to the pages.  Though I am unfamiliar with the playwright, this has peeked my interest and sent me off to search for his works.  And I think that is great when an author creates that kind of interest in her characters.

Alison Anderson's writing style made it hard to put this book down.  The words just flowed smoothly, especially the past story (my favorite), and held my attention.  Trying to figure out what happened to the book and to generally care for the characters.  

Highly recommend to fans of HF with a literary bent.  Thank you to TLC Tours for the invite to participate in this tour.


Alison Anderson APALISON ANDERSON, a native Californian, works as a literary translator in the Swiss Alps. Her many translations include the Europa edition of Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Ingrid Betancourt’s memoir, and the work of JMG De Clezio. She has also written two previous novels and is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Literary Translation Fellowship, as well as fellowships at the prestigious MacDowell Colony and the Hawthornden Retreat for Writers. 

Find out more about Alison at her website.

1 comment:

  1. I have only a passing familiarity with Chekhov but this kind of HF really appeals to me and I look forward to learning more about him and his works.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour!

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