The Beginning of Spring

Overview

Frank Reid is a struggling printer in Moscow. On the eve of the Revolution, his wife returns to her native England, leaving him to raise their three young children alone. How does a reasonable man like Frank cope? Should he listen to the Tolstoyan advice of his bookkeeper? And should he, in his wife's absence, resist his desire for his lovely Russian housemaid? How can anyone know how to live the right life?
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The Beginning of Spring

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Overview

Frank Reid is a struggling printer in Moscow. On the eve of the Revolution, his wife returns to her native England, leaving him to raise their three young children alone. How does a reasonable man like Frank cope? Should he listen to the Tolstoyan advice of his bookkeeper? And should he, in his wife's absence, resist his desire for his lovely Russian housemaid? How can anyone know how to live the right life?
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Editorial Reviews

Los Angeles Times
Writing so precise and lilting it can make you shiver.
Emmeline Plunket
The Beginning of Spring,'' is a very good comedy of manners....She and her characters have their own agenda; its priorities are the timelessness of human nature and the possibility of love. She is that refreshing rarity, a writer who is very modern but not the least bit hip. Ms. Fitzgerald looks into the past, both human and literary, and finds all sorts of things that are surprisingly up to date. Yet as The Beginning of Spring' reaches its triumphant conclusion, you realize that its greatest virtue is perhaps the most old-fashioned of all. It is a lovely novel. -- The New York Times
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Booker Prize-winner Fitzgerald Offshore ; Innocence reveals here the depth of a distinct and imaginative talent to amuse. Set in Moscow in the spring of 1913, the story concerns an English household that has fallen apart with the unexpected flight of Nellie Reid, a good and proper wife and heretofore devoted mother of three young children. Fitzgerald is especially good at very droll children. Nellie's husband, Frank, must carry on with his family and printing business while holding out hope for her return. A mysterious young woman from the countryside--she may be a dryad--is engaged to care for the children, and the plot, such as it is, takes many unexpected turns. But one doesn't read Fitzgerald for plot structure so much as for her sheer powers of invention: her novel raises more questions than it means to answer. Rich in subtle characterizations, wit and wonderfully textured prose, Fitzgerald's seventh novel succeeds in evoking the very essence of life one long-ago spring at 22 Lipka Street. Apr.
Library Journal
Set in Moscow in 1913, this tale chronicles several months in the life of Frank Reid, who is mysteriously deserted by his wife and must engage the simple peasant girl Lisa Ivanova to care for his three small children. Reid plods along in a remarkably mundane existence, relating to everyone with an amazing, unflagging apathy. Even an armed student radical who breaks into his shop and shoots at him cannot stir him to action. Lisa, to her credit, manages to stir him briefly to passion. The sole bright spot in this otherwise bleak, boring saga is Reid's hilariously precocious daughter, Dolly, whose abrupt, insightful comments are priceless. In this story, resolved anticlimactically in the last line of the text, there is very little spring, but a lot of grim, eternal winter.-- Ronald L. Coombs, SUNY Health Science Ctr. at Brooklyn Lib.
From the Publisher
“Bewitching.” — Boston Globe
 
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780395908716
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 9/28/1998
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 252,448
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.44 (d)

Meet the Author

Penelope Fitzgerald

Penelope Fitzgerald wrote many books small in size but enormous in popular and critical acclaim over the past two decades. Over 300,000 copies of her novels are in print, and profiles of her life appeared in both The New Yorker and The New York Times Magazine. In 1979, her novel OFFSHORE won Britain's Booker Prize, and in 1998 she won the National Book Critics Circle Prize for THE BLUE FLOWER. Though Fitzgerald embarked on her literary career when she was in her 60's, her career was praised as "the best argument.. for a publishing debut made late in life" (New York Times Book Review). She told the New York Times Magazine, "In all that time, I could have written books and I didn’t. I think you can write at any time of your life." Dinitia Smith, in her New York Times Obituary of May 3, 2000, quoted Penelope Fitzgerald from 1998 as saying, "I have remained true to my deepest convictions, I mean to the courage of those who are born to be defeated, the weaknesses of the strong, and the tragedy of misunderstandings and missed opportunities, which I have done my best to treat as comedy, for otherwise how can we manage to bear it?"

ANDREW MILLER's first novel, Ingenious Pain, won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the International IMPAC Award. He was short-listed for the Booker Prize and the Whitbread Award for his novel Oxygen. He lives in Brighton, England.

Biography

Although some of her novels were published previously in the U. S., Penelope Fitzgerald remained little known to a general American audience until 1997, when Houghton Mifflin's trade paperback imprint, Mariner, published The Blue Flower, which was chosen as an Editor's Choice by the New York Times Book Review, and won the 1998 National Book Critics Circle Award.

The then 81-year-old Fitzgerald was selected as winner of the NBCC Award over fellow nominees Don DeLillo, Philip Roth and Charles Frazier, winning her first American literary award. In her native England, Fitzgerald had long been a favorite of critics and writers. Her novel Offshore won Britain's prestigious Booker Prize, and three of her novels -- The Bookshop, The Gate of Angels, and The Beginning of Spring -- were finalists for the Prize.

Fitzgerald began her writing career late in life. She was sixty years old in 1977 when her first novel, The Golden Child, was published, a book she wrote to entertain her husband, who was dying of cancer. Much of her previous sixty years' experience informs her writing, from her days as a lowly assistant at the BBC (Human Voices), to a stint living on a houseboat in the Thames (Offshore), to working at a bookstore in a seaside village (The Bookshop).

Fitzgerald was born into a distinguished intellectual and professional family, the daughter of E. V. Knox, who was editor of Punch, and the granddaughter on both sides of Anglican bishops (her father and three uncles are the subjects of her biography, The Knox Brothers). She won a scholarship to Oxford and graduated shortly before the Second World War.

With her husband, Desmond, she ran a small literary journal called the World Review, which reprinted pieces by such writers as Jean-Paul Sartre and Dylan Thomas.

Author biography courtesy of Houghton Mifflin.

Good To Know

Dinitia Smith, in her New York Times obituary of May 3, 2000, quoted Penelope Fitzgerald from 1998 as saying, "I have remained true to my deepest convictions, I mean to the courage of those who are born to be defeated, the weaknesses of the strong, and the tragedy of misunderstandings and missed opportunities, which I have done my best to treat as comedy, for otherwise how can we manage to bear it?"

While studying on scholarship at Oxford, one of Fitzgerald's fellow students was J.R.R. Tolkien.

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    1. Date of Birth:
      December 17, 1916
    2. Place of Birth:
      Lincoln, England
    1. Date of Death:
      May 3, 2000
    2. Place of Death:
      London, England
    1. Education:
      Somerville College, Oxford University, 1939

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