The Russian Girl by Magister Ludi Kingsley Amis, author of one of The All-TIME 100 Novels, Lucky Jim http://realini.blogspot.com/2018/05/lucky-jim-by-kingsley-amis.html and about another sixteen other masterpieces
10 out of 10
They have a warning at the news, when they are going to show you graphic images from a conflict zone, such as the war that the monster from the Kremlin has launched in Ukraine, and now there is maybe a need to say warning, this reader is such a fervent admirer of Kingsley Amis that he could be biased, and furthermore, the elation brought about by this Russian Girl could be seen as exaggerated by someone who is not so thrilled by the magnum opera of the one who was called the greatest writers of comedy in the second half of the twentieth century http://realini.blogspot.com/2018/07/ending-up-by-kingsley-amis.html
Anna Danilova is The Russian Girl, and as such we could take her for the main character in this brilliant novel, but we could also argue that Doctor Richard Vasey is in fact the central figure in the saga, notwithstanding the fact that it is pointless to try and establish the primacy, eventually by counting the pages, the times when one or the other has something to say, never mind the relativity of all this, for how do we then measure the importance of one or other uttering, is her flexibility more relevant, or the compromise he may make, does she risk more, or is his position more fragile and dangerous.
The Russian Girl has come to England with a mission, she wants to save her brother from prison, where he had been for years and more recently, regardless of the end of his jail term, he is kept inside, without the prospect of early, or any kind of release- we have details from the background, however murky, confusing the situation is in the Soviet Union of the early nineties, when they have brought to power the young – especially when compared with previous dinosaurs – Mikhail Gorbatchev, and notwithstanding the fact that the novel does not detail the situation in the old USSR, there are constant hints, situations and attitudes that are explained using transaction or the culture of the place
Richard Vasey falls in love with her and wants to help, however difficult this will be, given the quandary, or nearly impossible situation he will find himself in, seeing as he finds the poetry of the Russian Girl terrible (some others will refer to is as ‘shit’) and thus he will have to make a choice, sign the petition to release her brother, which says that she is a great poet and hence give up all he values in his work, his professional integrity, or refuse to sign (at the head of the paper, as Crispin will have it) and therefore provoke the end of the affair and destroy what has become the most important connection in his life…
Anna Danilova has a serious rival, Cordelia is the wife of the scholar and she is both hilarious and terrifying from one point on, she talks in a funny way, with ‘eggsbloding’ and ‘Greeg’ for Greek, but she has a very mean side, she only gives her husband cups of tea that are two thirds full, because the money belongs to her, and when she will get mad (spoiler alert, it will a Massive Attack, without the music of the band with that name) this frantic eejit blocks cards, empties bank accounts and embarks on a criminal offensive
Cordelia has a habit of calling up people to exploit them, to fetch fish and other small things she would much easier get in another way, but she is the sadistic type, and this modern Marquis De Sade has a sick pleasure in ordering about, her ex-husband, Godfrey (if that was his name, and not just something I misremember) tells the readers that she at once had several humans doing choirs for her, cleaning the house, arranging the food for large parties, where those unpaid in-effect-servants were not even invited to attend and were just doing these things because of the strain of masochism they must have had, but also, because they were extremely intrigued, puzzled by this extravagant, bizarre woman, who is hilarious in her ways in the first part, but becomes monstrous as we move on.
Indeed, there is dark humor in what Cordelia does, only the novel does gain intensity and becomes almost a thriller as we advance – presuming there is still someone reading at this stage, a spoiler alert might be needed, for some scenes here belong to the last chapters, which I thought marvelous, just like the rest in fact – and if in the beginning, the mischievous, sardonic, cutting, abusive spouse was provoking her husband, talking of the sexy voice on the phone, the Russian girl he now has, willing to meet her, interested in playing tricks and games with her, so that she might be humiliated and brought down, when the bond became stronger and she saw that she might lose Richard, the tactic changed.
He husband would reveal something from the past, and if this is revealed towards the end (the spoiler alert is still on, right?) it is still the added evidence that makes the case for sentencing this demon stronger (if there were such a court trial) for when Godfrey (or some other name) announced he is leaving his then wife, she would resort to the criminal underworld and have a whole building set on fire, in which one man was killed, and when the situation will be repeated with Richard, she has the same strategy, and when he wants to pay the bill at the hotel, he sees that he cannot, the police stop him on the street, because there is a complaint over the car, then at the house where Anna is staying with friends, the same thing happens, for they have had a call to investigate, and when he returns to ‘his house’, his key does not work anymore, and if Anna had entered the premises before, by just breaking a window, now Cordelia has installed an alarm, she as recorded the sounds of barking dogs that ‘seem to be the size of ponies’…furthermore, when he does get access into the interior, everything that he had had is gone, and I mean all, papers, clothes and any item has been sent for destruction
To make it amusing and somewhat terrifying, the thug moves on to destroy all the scholar has at the Institute, she takes revenge on poor Pat, for allowing Richard to enter briefly into his home, the poor woman will face shoplifting charges and more, and eventually, some criminals will tamper with the wheels of the car…