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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review from Discover Great New Writers
"It is a small matter that brings them together."
Holland's arresting debut concerns the writer Isaac Babel, languishing in the infamous Lubyanka prison and prohibited from writing again, and a young archivist, Pavel Dubov. "The small matter" that occasions their meeting in 1939 is a newly confiscated manuscript that the archivist is hired to authenticate and ultimately, destroy. Pavel, a former teacher of Russian literature, is nearly felled by the irony of his task when he realizes it is indeed Babel's work. But the threatening atmosphere of Stalin's purges allows for little hesitation and no dissent.
After a wrenching meeting with Babel, Pavel makes a reckless -- yet for him -- inevitable decision. He tucks Babel's pages under his shirt and leaves the archives. Keenly aware that this impulsive act may well be his last, Pavel hides the work, ensuring a renewed sense of meaning and purpose far more essential than his own safety.
Entwining historical facts with a suspenseful narrative, The Archivist's Story is a novel of indelible images and unforgettable courage. Though Pavel's small act of bravery may seal his fate, it is of little consequence if he can save a few words by a man who has endured no gentle silencing. Holland's first novel is a vivid and profound affirmation of the written word. (Fall 2007 Selection)