The Summer Guest: Book summary and reviews of The Summer Guest by Alison Anderson

The Summer Guest

by Alison Anderson

The Summer Guest by Alison Anderson X
The Summer Guest by Alison Anderson
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  • Published in USA  May 2016
    400 pages
    Genre: Historical Fiction

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Book Summary

What if Anton Chekhov, undisputed master of the short story, actually wrote a novel - and the manuscript still existed? This tantalizing possibility drives The Summer Guest, a spellbinding narrative that draws together, across two centuries, the lives of three women through the discovery of a diary.

During the long, hot summer of 1888, an extraordinary friendship blossoms between Anton Chekhov and Zinaida Lintvaryova, a young doctor. Recently blinded by illness, Zinaida has retreated to her family's estate in the lush countryside of Eastern Ukraine, where she is keeping a diary to record her memories of her earlier life. But when the Chekhov family arrives to spend the summer at a dacha on the estate, and she meets the middle son Anton Pavlovich, her quiet existence is transformed by the connection they share. What begins as a journal kept simply to pass the time becomes an intimate, introspective narrative of Zinaida's singular relationship with this doctor and writer of growing fame.

More than a century later, in 2014, the unexpected discovery of this diary represents Katya Kendall's last chance to save her struggling London publishing house. Zinaida's description of a gifted young man still coming to terms with his talent offers profound insight into a literary legend, but it also raises a tantalizing question: Did Chekhov, known only as a short story writer and playwright, write a novel over the course of their friendship that has since disappeared? The answer could change history, and finding it proves an irresistible challenge for Ana Harding, the translator Katya hires. Increasingly drawn into Zinaida and Chekhov's world, Ana is consumed by her desire to find the "lost" book. As she delves deeper into the moving account of two lives changed by a meeting on a warm May night, she discovers that the manuscript is not the only mystery contained within the diary's pages.

Inspired by the real friendship between Chekhov and the Lintvaryov family, landowners in the Ukraine, The Summer Guest is a masterful and utterly compelling literary novel that breathes life into a vanished world, while exploring the transformative power of art and the complexity of love and friendship.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. An exceptional novel about the transcendent possibilities of literature, friendship, and contemplation." - Kirkus

"Starred Review. This alluring and deceptively ingenuous novel demands close consideration from its readers, contains an internal mystery, and packs a heartbreakingly lovely emotional punch." - Booklist

"Ardent Chekhov fans will appreciate a brief immersion in the world he must have known for two summers, while readers of any stamp can enjoy the melancholy beauty of a vanished world and the surprise twist that, at the end, offers what all three characters have been searching for - 'something completely unexpected and equally precious: another way of seeing the world.'" - Publishers Weekly

"The interplay between past and present - between the events described in the diary as against the hopes of publisher and translator - draws readers into the novel and enables them to believe they have actually met the great playwright. The character Chekhov's take on "so-called ladies' novels" and romantic love is especially illuminating." - Library Journal

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Author Information

Alison Anderson

Alison Anderson, a native Californian, works as a literary translator in the Swiss Alps. Her many translations include the Europa edition of Muriel Barbery's The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Ingrid Betancourt's memoir, and the work of JMG De Clezio. She has also written two previous novels and is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Literary Translation Fellowship, as well as fellowships at the prestigious MacDowell Colony and the Hawthornden Retreat for Writers.

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