I thought I'd start this book thread (if it's been done before - apologies - I didn't search the archives!) and see what everyone is reading out there. What author has captured your attention? What books have you read that you simply couldn't put down? What characters resonated with you? Who did you empathize with? Who appalled, disturbed, and angered you to no end? What book made you laugh, cry, or simply ponder? "Who were our ancestors? Who am I?"
Anyway, I read quite a bit (time permitting) and this is one fascinating, haunting, and profoundly moving book that I finally got around to - Michael Ignatieff's The Russian Album.
Of all Michael Ignatieff's books, this one reached deep into my soul, as it dealt with a theme I and everyone can identify with on the deepest level - family. It's one piercing piece of work. The Russian Album
is a deeply personal, intense, melancholic account of the personal history, trials and tribulations of an extraordinary family, the Ignatieff clan, and a detailed history of that family's deep, intense connection with the Russian Imperial court during the era of the Czars. We step into a literary time machine and travel back to the family's roots and witness events, both positive and horrific, and how these incidents altered and shaped the life courses of not only the ones living during that particular time, but as well altered the lives of their future descendants - decades later. It is a deeply personal look into the life of the Ignatieff family in Russia as well as their escape after the 1917 revolution; their brief stays and experiences in both London and Paris, and their eventual journey to and settling in Canada.
Michael Ignatieff uses family photographs and excerpts from family diaries and letters to provide us with a taste of the life that his ancestors lived, but while The Russian Album
brilliantly captures the golden and gilded court of Czarist Russia, it is more importantly a tome devoted to family ties - love etched deep into the bone and blood - the familial ties that bind through the course of generations. Love, laughter, pain, and the whole damn thing. For me, one of the most touching moments of the book focuses on Ignatieff's conversation with his grandfather's remaining sons about their long deceased mother and father and their memories of them, altered and re-dressed courtesy of the ensuing years, changes of heart, and perpetual grief.
The first chapter of The Russian Album
contains an extremely wistful, sad, and ultimately haunting description of old family photographs - the occupants of said photos being long gone from this earth - and the questions their descendants have about the voiceless faces who share their DNA and stare out at them from the faded black and white film. Smiles and grimaces and lives and loves and hopes and realized and unfulfilled dreams, forever frozen in time. We may know tidbits of their persona based on family legends and stories passed from generation to generation, but in truth we cannot fully grasp and comprehend who these people - the blood that courses through our veins; this blood of ours that lived and walked this earth long before we did - really were. We'll never know them, and as a result there will always remain unanswered questions about ourselves and who we are. It's our loss, and it's an incredibly moving and thought-provoking piece of writing.
Anyway, this is one that I just finished. I highly recommend it. Next, I'm re-visiting Thomas Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd.
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