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Pravdaby Edward Docx
Sharp, compelling, and dark. Edward Docx is fantastically gifted with prose and weaves a complex family saga and literary thriller. With descriptive powers rivaling Le Carre, and a setting that hops between Russia, London and New York, I devoured this book in one sitting.
Synopses & Reviews
Inspired by the author's own family history, Pravda is a haunting chronicle of suspicion and loss, love and loyalty, and the destructive legacy of deceit.
Thirty-two-year-old Gabriel Clarke arrives in St. Petersburg from London to find his mother dead in her apartment. Reeling from grief, Gabriel and his twin, Isabella, bury their mother and struggle to make sense of their loss. Unknown to either, their mother had long ago abandoned a son, Arkady, now an utterly amoral Russian predator determined to claim his birthright. Aided by an ex-seminarian and heroin addict whose addiction is destroying him, Arkady tracks down the twins and uncovers the shocking secrets hidden from them their entire lives.
"Docx's second novel (after The Calligrapher) wrings out all the theatrics to be had from unhappy urban-dwelling twins, their sexually voracious father and dead Russian mother. Twins Gabriel and Isabella Glover, both 32 and leading lackluster lives — she at a New York PR firm, he the editor in London of Self-Help! magazine — see another crack form in their perennially tortured existences when their mother, Maria, who defected to marry their British father, dies alone in St. Petersburg. (Their despised father, Nicholas, meanwhile, dabbles in art, decadence and self-important interior monologues in Paris.) All are unaware of an additional family member: Arkady Artamenkov, their mother's first son, who had been kept afloat by Maria's financial assistance and the guiding hand of his junkie friend, Henry Whey. After the checks stop, Henry hatches a plan to send Arkady to plead for money from the family that doesn't know he exists. Though Docx's prose can get dangerously overheated ('Give me the sincerity of nakedness and the honesty of desire, O God, and deliver me from the turgid bourgeoisie and all their favorite phrases'), the crushing atmosphere will draw in fans of dark Euro-fiction." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"'Pravda' is a book on fire. Ignited by a family secret, Edward Docx's novel of lies, betrayals, revelations and repercussions is written with a mastery and passion that summon up Dickens and Dostoevsky, peppered with a hip, wild 21st-century perspective. Although meticulously crafted, 'Pravda' seems as spontaneous as a musical improvisation. Told from multiple points of view, the... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) story zigs back and forth from New York to London to Paris and St. Petersburg. Gabriel Glover, twin of Isabella, arrives in St. Petersburg from London to visit his Russian-born mother, Maria, only to find her dead in her apartment. Maria had gone back to Russia for reasons she could not share with her children: She had lung cancer and felt driven, before it was too late, to meet the son she gave up at birth before the twins were born. Gabriel summons his sister to St. Petersburg for the burial. While he and Isabella try to come to grips with their loss, Arkady Artamenkov, the abandoned half brother they don't know exists, conspires to find the twins. He met his mother for the first time just before her death, and now he wants to claim his rightful inheritance. Arkady needs money to finish his degree at the conservatory so he can have a shot at a career as a pianist. Unscrupulous and brutish, his demonic character is redeemed only at the keyboard. While the plot thickens in a pressure cooker of complexities, the reader is dazzled by descriptions like this one, of Arkady walking through the underbelly of St. Petersburg late at night: 'He knew well that it was in these dead hours, when Petersburg slipped off its creamy European robes and revealed itself a mean and swarthy peasant once more, that the real business of Russian life got done. Boy and man, he had seen it: the black Mercedes rolling down the half-lit street, the tinny police car idling, smear-faced street girls slipping like sylphs along the railings of the canals, and the drugged and the drunk always watching from their darkened doorways, glassy-eyed and desperate, crawling back and forth between heaven and hell, one scabby knee at a time.' Docx nails character with economy and originality. There is the twins' estranged father, Nicholas Glover, who 'had the kind of demeanor that Dorian Gray might have developed if that asinine portrait had never been painted and the young fool had relied instead on the excellence of his genes and the incisiveness of his wit to see him handsomely through to his sixties.' Even minor players are made memorable: 'The other was a man of average height but on the brink of irreversible obesity, balding, with a puffy, pastry-fond face, small eyes, and the fastidious manner of the superfluous employee.' Inhabiting the heads and hearts of each of his characters, the author reveals the workings of their minds, the vagaries of their pathologies, the contradictions of their characters, the flaws and the humanity in each of them. The voices, external as well as internal, are pitch perfect, as are Arkady's ferocious thoughts when he finally meets his mother: 'All he wanted to do was hurt her as viciously as he could. '"Can you tell me anything about your life, Arkady?" 'To ram her words back down her throat until she choked. To show her every second of it. All the years of (expletive) he had been through. Every fight. Every beating. Every bruise. Do to her what had been done to him. Every last thing.' We never 'hear' Arkady play the sonatas and concertos he has been practicing, but we do witness him playing jazz: 'Arkady appeared to inhabit the mass or density of his instrument, as if he had assumed command not only of sound but also of the space and time that the piano occupied ... as if the quick of his will was alive in the grain of the soundboard.' Indeed, music acts as an antidote to darkness in this tale. 'Then, suddenly, there it was,' Docx writes, 'manifest among them: the age-old miracle of music. Where before there had been people-din, chair-scrape, glass-chink, fractured, fractious, fragmentary sound, now there was only the startling beauty of harmony and rhythm and order, of tone and skill, the compelling narrative of human talent expressing itself.' When Arkady finds the twins, he reveals more shocking family secrets, then asks them for money to finish his studies. The twins confer. Gabriel wants to hear him play first, to know if he is truly talented. 'What if he is brilliant?' Isabella asks. 'Does it change anything as far as we are concerned?' But in fact everything changes for Gabriel and Isabella Glover. They are searching for pravda (truth, in Russian) and coming to terms with their identities and their lives. 'When a parent passes away,' Docx writes, 'the family demons do not retreat but rise from their sarcophagi and move out across the borders of the mind, swearing in their puppet regimes as they pass.' In 'Pravda,' Docx neither shrinks from the demons nor exorcises them. Instead, he lets them writhe and exhaust themselves in a novel so vivid it glows in the dark — like truth." Reviewed by Eugenia Zukerman, who is a flutist, and the author of four books, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"As in his previous book, the final twist is a stunner, both totally unexpected and carefully prepared for. Longlisted for the 2007 Man Booker Prize, and with good reason: well written, vigorously plotted and perceptive about human nature." Kirkus Reviews
"Though Docx's prose veers out of control at times...he manages to elevate this most dysfunctional family to the level of international intrigue. Caustic, hip, and highly recommended." Library Journal
A sweeping transcontinental novel of secrets and lies buried within a single family
Thirty-two-year-old Gabriel Glover arrives in St. Petersburg to find his mother dead in her apartment. Reeling from grief, Gabriel and his twin sister, Isabella, arrange the funeral without contacting their father, Nicholas, a brilliant and manipulative libertine. Unknown to the twins, their mother had long ago abandoned a son, Arkady, a pitiless Russian predator now determined to claim his birthright. Aided by an ex-seminarian whose heroin addiction is destroying him, Arkady sets out to find the siblings and uncover the dark secret hidden from them their entire lives.
Winner of the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize and long-listed for the Man Booker Prize, Pravda is a darkly funny, compulsively readable, and hauntingly beautiful chronicle of discovery and loss, love and loyalty, and the destructive legacy of deceit.
About the Author
Edward Docx has been literary editor and Sunday columnist for the London Express and, most recently, a satirical columnist for the London Times. He appears frequently on British television and radio as a cultural critic. He has interviewed many eminent writers and was the principal consultant and commentator on the BBC World Service series for Bob Dylan's sixtieth birthday. Born in 1972, he is a graduate of Cambridge University. He is at work on his second novel.
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