A young man devoted to a political cause and an impulsive young woman looking to give her heart: On the Eve brings these characters together with consequences that are both believable and tragic. The story opens in the summer of 1853, when two young men are decorously courting the beautiful young Elena Nikolayevna. Shubin, a sculptor, is creating a portrait of her, while his friend Bersyenev tries to impress her with his philosophical learning. Their leisurely routine is upset by the arrival of Bersyenev’s friend Insarov. An ardent Bulgarian nationalist whose mother was killed by the Turks, he is determined to help liberate his country from Ottoman rule. Without setting out to do so, he wins Elena’s heart. But their future is threatened by family opposition, illness and the looming spectre of the Crimean War.
On the Eve is one of Turgenev’s finest novels, a poignant love story that is equally acclaimed as a portrait of Russian society in the 1850s. The innocence and idealism of the younger characters contrast with the world-weary older generation: Elena’s parents’ marriage is a model of cynicism and compromise. Turgenev also gently satirises the young Russians’ ethereal concerns, in contrast with the man of action, Insarov. Turgenev was perhaps Russia’s greatest prose artist, and this novel – the favourite of Henry James – contains some of his most accomplished passages, from his descriptions of Venice (where Insarov ends his days) to his famous simile comparing death to a fisherman: ‘the fish continues to swim about, but all the while the net is round it, and the fisherman will snatch it out in his own good time.’ Hisham Matar, winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for In the Country of Men and a great admirer of Turgenev, has contributed a new introduction, while Lauren Nassef has produced a series of striking yet delicate illustrations.
Review by dnbryant on 24th Oct 2012
"The illustrations are beautiful and are just what you would expect from the pictures shown by folio. The Story is good as well and fits perfectly into the genre of "jane austin" types of books. So i..." [read more]