Kingsley Amis's newest novel begins like an academic romp but soon moves into territory that Amis has made triumphantly his own - the battle of the sexes and the conflicting claims of love and integrity. The Russian Girl is a love story, but as always with Kingsley Amis, it develops through a variety of hilarious scenes and characters. Art, literature, political correctness, and the gender war all come under the award-winning writer's seasoned scalpel, as do a cast of characters that range from the haplessly ...
Kingsley Amis's newest novel begins like an academic romp but soon moves into territory that Amis has made triumphantly his own - the battle of the sexes and the conflicting claims of love and integrity. The Russian Girl is a love story, but as always with Kingsley Amis, it develops through a variety of hilarious scenes and characters. Art, literature, political correctness, and the gender war all come under the award-winning writer's seasoned scalpel, as do a cast of characters that range from the haplessly high-minded to the hilariously odd.
This time out Amis pere has written a sort of dourly comic version of le Carre's The Russia House. English expert on Slavic languages Richard Vaisey, married to dreadful but wealthy Cordelia, falls for visiting Russian poet Anna Danilova, who seeks English celebrity support to get her brother out of a Moscow jail (the time is the period surrounding the failed coup against Gorbachev). This presents an agonizing dilemma for the lovelorn Richard: Anna is a terrible poet, so what is he to do? And how is he to keep her and suspicious Cordelia apart? In lighter hands this could be the stuff of a lively contemporary farce, and there are certainly some comic moments: Cordelia, for instance, is a brilliant creation, and her extended revenge, when Richard finally plucks up the courage to leave her, is horrifyingly hilarious. But Amis's awkwardly plodding style, admired though it may be in England, and the rather dim characterization of Richard, allow the story to be only fitfully amusing. At least Amis's customary misogyny is all concentrated this time on the fearful Cordelia, and in Anna he has created one of his more believable and likable women. (May)
Dr. Richard Vaisey is an esteemed scholar at the London Institute of Slavonic Studies whose wife, Cordelia, has perfected the art of manipulation. When Anna Danilova, an obscure Russian poet, asks his help in freeing her brother from a Russian jail by making her ``famous'' and thus calling world attention to the brother's plight, Richard finds himself torn between his growing passion for her and his outright dislike of her poetry. Realizing what is going on between her husband and ``the Russian girl,'' Cordelia, plots revenge. Vaisey's conflicting emotions allow Amis, in his acerbically witty way, to explore the nature of art, criticism, academic integrity, and, ultimately, love. Even Americans come in for a tongue lashing--``if . . . a book had to be a novel, then let it contain as little fiction as possible. Maybe it is that Americans are a nervous lot and the idea of somebody inventing people and events out of imagination, out of nothing makes them uneasy.'' While Richard's dilemma drives the plot, it is Cordelia's nastiness that provides the real spice. She is a wonderful character whose idiosyncrasies will be appreciated by Amis's many fans. For most academic and public libraries. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/94.-- David W. Henderson, Eckerd Coll. Lib., St. Petersburg, Fla.
The cold war is over now, but Mr. Amis's latest hero, Richard Vaisey, has more than his share of problems with women and Russians...Although "The Russian Girl" lacks the emotional chiaroscuro and depth of Mr. Amis's 1987 novel "The Old Devils," it remains a highly entertaining performance: a wild, funny, wholly diverting romp of a book. -- New York Times
"A cool cocktail mixed with parts of Updike and DeVries, with appeal of le Carre. Well, no. It's hardly appropriate when considering an author of Sir Kingsley stature...to try to make him into someone else's martini. The Russian Girl is more of a good wine, vintage amos: smooth, dry and not overpriced." -- The New York Times Book Review
Kingsley Amis was born in south London in 1922 and was educated at the City of London School and St John's College, Oxford. At one time he was a university lecturer, a keen reader of science fiction and a jazz enthusiast. After the publication of Lucky Jim in 1954, which has become a modern classic, Kingsley Amis wrote over twenty novels, including The Alteration (1976), winner of the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, The Old Devils (1986), winner of the Booker Prize, and The Biographer's Moustache (1995), which was to be his last book. He published a variety of other work, including a survey of science fiction entitled New Maps of Hell (1960); Rudyard Kipling and His World (1975); The Golden Age of Science Fiction (1981); Collected Poems (1979); and his Memoirs (1991). He wrote ephemerally on politics, education, language, films, television, restaurants and drink. Many of his books are published by Penguin. In 1995 Eric Jacobs published Kingsley Amis, a biography of the distinguished writer, on which Amis himself collaborated.
Kingsley Amis was awarded the CBE in 1981 and received a knighthood in 1990. After his death in October 1995, Keith Waterhouse described him as 'a great storyteller, although he was much more than a storyteller,' while John Mortimer wrote: 'He was a genuine comic writer, probably the best after P. G. Wodehouse ... He had a lasting influence and was a very good novelist.'