The Russian Lieutenant’s Woman
by Barbara Davies
This is the true story of a journalist who is sent to Russia on a commission and falls in love with an officer. The two of them can scarcely communicate in the same language but his beauty and charm lead them to a brief and passionate affair which makes her yearn to have Dima’s baby.
Russia, with its hardship and poverty becomes for Barbara a place more real and meaningful than all of London. Her solid roots, successful career, her long-term on-off affair with a married man are all snow-spun away by her romantic dreams.
Her wish is fulfilled. Back to work in England and she finds to her deep delight that she is pregnant and the story charts her feelings and the gradual awakening to the realities of a relationship with a man whose cultural identity is ultimately too far removed from her own to be sustainable. The women she meets in Russia – even the lieutenant’s own mother – warn her that this is not the life for a Western woman.
The book takes the form of a love letter to her daughter Anya, to whom she is explaining her background, and mother is conscious of recognising her daughter’s Russian heritage. She has revisited Russia with her daughter, and though welcomed with love by his family and friends, she begins to see him in the light of day as a heavy drinker of vodka who is locked into a system in which wives do indeed seem down-trodden while at the same time being the strong stoics who hold things together.
Now bringing Anya up as a single mother in London, it is a compelling story, beautifully written, that I could not put down.
Hodder & Stoughton, 2008
Paperback, 248 pp, £7.99