The Beginning of Spring

Penelope Fitzgerald

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The Beginning of Spring

The Beginning of Spring In March Frank Reid s wife abruptly leaves him and Moscow for her native England Naturally she takes their daughters and son with her The children however only make it as far as the train sta

  • Title: The Beginning of Spring
  • Author: Penelope Fitzgerald
  • ISBN: 9780006543701
  • Page: 225
  • Format: Paperback
  • In March 1913, Frank Reid s wife abruptly leaves him and Moscow for her native England Naturally, she takes their daughters and son with her The children, however, only make it as far as the train station and even after returning home remain unaffected by their brief exile They ought either to be quieter or noisy than before, their father thinks, and it was diIn March 1913, Frank Reid s wife abruptly leaves him and Moscow for her native England Naturally, she takes their daughters and son with her The children, however, only make it as far as the train station and even after returning home remain unaffected by their brief exile They ought either to be quieter or noisy than before, their father thinks, and it was disconcerting that they seemed to be exactly the same Frank s routines, however, drift into disorder as he tries desperately to take charge of life at home and work Even his printing plant is suddenly confronted by the specters of modernization and utter instability In Penelope Fitzgerald s fiction, affection and remorse are all too often allied, and desire and design seem never to meet Frank wants little than a quiet, confident life something for which he is deeply unsuited, and which Russia certainly will not go out of her way to provide The Beginning of Spring is filled with echoes of past wrongs and whispers of the revolution to come, even if the author evokes these with abrupt comic brio In one disturbance, A great many shots had hit people for whom they were not intended As ever, Fitzgerald makes us care for and want to know ever about her characters, even the minor players Her two page description of Frank s chief type compositor, for instance, is a miracle of precision and humor, sympathy and mystery And the accountant Selwyn Crane a Tolstoy devot e, self published poet, and expert at making others feel guilty is a sublime creation His appetite for do gooding is insatiable After one fit of apparent altriusm, Selwyn subsided Now that he saw everything was going well, his mind was turning to his next charitable enterprise With the terrible aimlessness of the benevolent, he was casting round for a new misfortune As she evokes her household of tears and laughter, Fitzgerald s prose is as witty as ever, rendering the past present and the modern timeless Kerry Fried

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      Published :2018-04-04T05:43:18+00:00

    One thought on “The Beginning of Spring

    1. Jan-Maat on said:

      Of the three Penelope Fitzgerald novels that I've read this was without a doubt my least favourite.This is the simple story of an expatriate British printer running a press in Moscow before the First World War and how his life changes as his British wife leaves him( this in the first few pages, so I hold not a spoiler) and he takes on a nanny, not magical but revolutionary, to look after his three children whose wisdom contrasts nicely with his foolishness.But the way Fitzgerald handled diminuti [...]

    2. Lyn Elliott on said:

      This is the first of Fitzgerald's novels that I've read, and I felt much better about feeling a bit lost after I'd read several substantial reviews. I enjoyed it, and I wanted to know more about Fitzgerald and her works. Alan Hollinghurst first: (1)'Many readers have found Fitzgerald an elusive writer—though the elusiveness may be as much a fascination as a barrier.Hers was very much the art that hides art, and she had besides a horror of explanation. She can introduce characters in the most g [...]

    3. Andy Weston on said:

      Late in the winter of 1913 in Moscow expat Frank Reid's wife leaves him. To his surprise she doesn't take their three young children, or rather, only as far as the station, from where they are returned to him. 'They ought to be quieter or more noisy than before' Frank observes suspiciously as he embarks on a testing time as father and looking after his busy printing business. Some wonderful characters appear throughout the months as the Moscow ice melts and spring begins, not least the accountan [...]

    4. Dorian on said:

      The best book I read in 2011 was published in 1988. I'd read Fitzgerald before and found her interesting but not especially compelling. Thank goodness I read about this on a "best of the year list" at the redoubtable Millions website. I happened to have a copy on the shelf and was amazed and delighted with what I read. I think I was just too young and callow to appreciate Fitzgerald before. In one of the blurbs on this copy of the book, a writer asks, How does she do it? And that is indeed the q [...]

    5. Kirsten on said:

      I liked this declaration from one of the characters in this novel, after he has been accused of being an unbeliever:"Not an unbeliever, sir, a free-thinker. Perhaps you've never thought about the difference. As a free-thinker I can believe what I like, when I like. I can commit you, in your sad situation, to the protection of God this evening, even though tomorrow morning I shan't believe he exists. As an unbeliever I should be obliged not to believe, and that's an unwarrantable restriction on m [...]

    6. Joanne on said:

      This is a book where nothing happens and nobody cares about anything. The characters don't care and I didn't care about the characters.

    7. Shayla on said:

      Yikes. I don't think I've rolled my eyes more while reading a book. Nellie leaves, does Frank care? I don't think so. She leaves the kids at the train station to get back to Moscow on their own. Do they care that their mom has left them? I don't think so. Then we get lots of descriptions of Reidkas, and Tolstoyian things and Birch Trees. Plus more descriptions of Russian activities, a little bit of England and Nellie's life, Birch Trees, everyone knows the goings on at Frank's house, enter Lisa, [...]

    8. Richard Moss on said:

      I discovered Penelope Fitzgerald when I picked up a cheap copy of Offshore - her Booker Prize winner - and have loved everything I've read since.This may be her best work though. First, it is fantastically funny - it made me laugh out loud many times. It's a subtle, dry deadpan humour - asides and subtexts - but wonderfully crafted. The visit of Frank's brother-in-law is a masterpiece of comic writing. Frank's daughter Dolly is also a delight.But of course it is much more than that. A bit like o [...]

    9. David on said:

      Penelope shines again. This feels like the funniest of her novels I've read so far (over Offshore, The Bookshop, and The Gate of Angels, though they're all very witty) but it also has a beautiful weight to it. She's as perceptive as ever in swiftly, deftly describing the way people interact with one another, and her construction of story is as angular and unpredictable as ever. Fantastic. Highly recommended.

    10. Guille on said:

      A la manera en la que lo diría Frank, si he de elegir, diría que “El inicio de la primavera” es más bien desconcertante. Los hechos parecen dispersarse en multitud de direcciones que no parecen guardar relación entre sí, más allá de la intención de mostrarnos en un tono burlesco aspectos llamativos de la personalidad rusa y de la Rusia prerrevolucionaria. Desconcierta lo absurdo de algunos diálogos, situaciones y comportamientos. Desconcierta la extravagancia de los personajes, con [...]

    11. Judith Johnson on said:

      This is the second novel I've read by the author. There are numerous rave reviews by illustrious writers from when it was published, and I can't argue: it is in my opinion a most beautifully written story set in a certain time (1913), place (Moscow) and situation (an English home), and for me it was completely captivating. It has also stimulated me to go and drag all my Russian-subject books off various shelves in the house which are waiting to be read and put them all in one place on my TBR boo [...]

    12. Daisy on said:

      What a strange little book. It's about a man whose wife leaves him. This could be anyone, anywhere, anytime.But: it's 1913 Moscow and the family members are English transplants in a Russia brewing with revolution and Tolstoy-ism. I liked this quite a bit.I never knew that in the winter, they actually puttied the windows closed to keep the cold out and the warmth in. The opening of the windows is as much of a celebration, it seems, as any saint day. (There are saints for everything, aren't there? [...]

    13. Lahierbaroja on said:

      ¿Cómo puede contar tanto y no caer en la pesadez? ¿Cómo condensar tantos temas sin ser aburrida? ¿Cuál es su secreto? La sutileza. No nos cuenta cada detalle, cada palabra y cada gesto, sino que nos da un esbozo, un guiño y una frase. Lo relevante es que su estilo va calando poco a poco: no hay muchas descripciones, pero las que incluye son elocuentes; no hay demasiados personajes, pero los que existen son un modo de ejemplificar a todo un grupo de individuos, es decir, como un modo de ac [...]

    14. sisterimapoet on said:

      Given to me by a friend as part of our seasonal reading challenge. Not bad, but not great. I like Russian novels, and this felt quite authentic, despite it not being. The atmosphere and tone felt authentic to the time and place they were portraying. It felt very Russian in the flood of odd characters that came and went. And also in the rather peculiar way things occur sometimes without knowing quite why.But as a whole I never really got the point of it. Although it did deliver it's title promise [...]

    15. Shari Gonzalez on said:

      I actually never could bring myself to finish this book. It was recommended by a friend who is attending an Adult Learning course at Oxford in Modern English Lit as it's required reading in that course. The other book in the course - Black Swan Green was great and I highly recommend it.I got to page 100 on this book and finally gave it up as it just never got interesting - parts of it were from the Russian cultural perspective but really not all that engaging overall.

    16. Jay on said:

      About a hundred pages yet to go in this novel, and although I seldom make a habit of abandoning a book I've begin, in this case it's taking monumental effort to continue. The pointlessness of this book is only surpassed by the astonishingly dull writing. I'm willing to consider that I'm missing something here, but I'll be damned if I know what the merits of this novel might be.

    17. Eva Stachniak on said:

      Another wise and amazing historical novel. A slim volume that manages to catch the spirit of Russia at the eve of the revolutionary changes.A gem.

    18. Greg on said:

      If I hadn't just read 2017's "The Bear and the Nightingale" I would have missed a number of subtle, comedic references to Russian folklore. This isn't a flat-out farce as is Fitzgerald's "Human Voices" but is still oddly comical: we have Tolstoy in a bear suit (bears must be popular in Russian fairy tales), a birch tree poem which is particularly bad in light of a fairy tale within "The Bear and the Nightingale", couples frozen in ice and floating down a river as Spring approaches, and an ending [...]

    19. Paul Fulcher on said:

      In my review of Penelope Fitzgerald's The Gate of Angels I praised "Fitzgerald's wonderfully compact prose. In 160 pages she manages to tell a (simple) story, create an evocative sense of historical place, introduce us to some memorably baffling characters and explore a number of powerful themesAgainst that, the novel suffers from, to the reader at least, oblique (at least to the reader) developments and characters, although ultimately that is a function of Fitzgerald's brevity and a part of her [...]

    20. Dagný on said:

      Penelope Fitzgerald (1916-2000) has written some of my absolutely favorite novels, The Blue Flower,The Bookshop, and, now, The Beginning of Spring. They are unconventional and superbly right, one feels the surprises are true. The range of the ordinary to the mystical, the historically peculiar to the true of all times reverberates from the sparse, elegant text. Then there is the humor and the heartbreaking love for the characters; somehow even their shortest appearance will nevertheless manifest [...]

    21. Laura on said:

      Penelope Fitzgerald's novel of an English family in Moscow, adapted by Penny Leicester. The winter of 1913 finds Frank Reid, owner of a printing company, abandoned by his wife. Frank Reid is not being helped by his accountant, Selwyn. The English Chaplaincy has a scary resident and now a shop girl is taking on the nannying duties. Lisa, the new nanny, is too beautiful for Frank, even with her plaits cut off.Narrator: Clare Higgins; Frank: Richard McCabe; Selwyn: David Bamber; Nellie: Jennifer Le [...]

    22. Calzean on said:

      It was interesting to read of the English ex-pats living in Moscow in the last years of the Tsar. The author reminded me of Amy Witting - which was a coincidence since they both started their literary careers late in life.The story follows Frank Reid, a Moscow-born son of a British emigre manufacturer whose Britain-born wife has suddenly abandoned him and their three children. It is a bit of a tongue in cheek look at expats, a love of Tolstoy, birch trees and snow. It works but it did not grab m [...]

    23. Jennifer on said:

      Background knowledge of Russia and printing operations during this time period would probably be helpful. I had a hard time relating to the characters and felt like the plot was really choppy and uneventful.

    24. April on said:

      Fitzgerald's 'world-building' [or whatever you non-science fiction fans call it] is good and her prose is lovely. I found the character development and story weak however. And the former could not make up for the latter.

    25. Pat K on said:

      I really wanted to like this book, but I waited and waited for something to happen and it wasn't till half way through that my interest was even slightly raised. Nothing happened and there was no character development.

    26. Annalie on said:

      This is a very strange, very interesting little novel. In my humble and untrained opinion, it deserves the spot on the Booker Prize shortlist.

    27. Mark on said:

      Penelope Fitzgerald has won the Booker Prize, but I think after this, she won't even make my longlist. The Beginning of Spring is set just a few years before the Russian Revolution in Moscow, focusing on Frank Reid, a British man who was raised in Moscow and has taken over the printing business of his father. As the novel opens, Frank's wife Nellie has left him. She has taken their three children with her, until she reaches the first stop, at which point she dumps them and Frank has to retrieve [...]

    28. Dan on said:

      gently, cleverly written. the 1913 anglo merchant's moscow of the decent protagonist and his children is beautifully conjured. some mystery - in fact a bit too much for me, and i'm still blinking at one chapter (25) - which might be about the magic of the coming revolution. good to read a novel by a woman who had clearly lived a lot before settling to become a writer.

    29. Sara on said:

      I loved this little book, except for the very very end. In the vein of 'a sensible man,' our protagonist is a rational person trying to navigate insanity around them, and the onrush of spring in Moscow is an amazing backdrop to the story.

    30. Julie on said:

      I love the way the author writes. Even if when the content of the story wasn't that interesting, I still found myself becoming lost in the writing and how the narrators voice came off the pages. I also enjoyed some of the imagery throughout the book along with the ending. Although, I think the metaphor at the ending, was a bit lost on me, I did enjoy the ending, surprised but I enjoyed it. Overall, the book was average story, but lovely writing style. I found it was easy to be bored with the plo [...]

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