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The translator of The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Alison Anderson, delivers a remarkable literary novel—with a stunning conclusion—inspired by historical events, in which a diary weaves together the lives of three women: a dying doctor who befriends Anton Chekhov in the late 19th century, a modern-day London book editor and the woman she hires to translate the diary into English In 1888, illness forces a young Ukrainian doctor, Zinaida Mikhailovna, into premature retirement on her family’s rural estate. When a St. Petersburg family rents their guest house for the summer, Zinaida—newly blind from the condition that will eventually kill her—befriends the son, Anton Pavlovich. He is a writer of modest but growing fame who will soon be known to the world simply as Chekhov, an author renowned for his mastery of the short story . . . and for the fact that he never published a novel. In the frigid winter of 2014, Zinaida’s diary lands in translator Ana Harding’s inbox, sent by the proprietor of a small London publisher. Katya Kendall hopes to rescue the failing press, and her failing marriage, by publishing an English translation. Ana accepts the low-paying project as a distraction from her own professional and romantic disappointments, and is soon consumed by Zinaida’s intense, introspective narrative of two summers spent with the Chekhovs as she confronts her death. The diary contains tantalizing hints that Chekhov wrote a novel that was inspired by Zinaida during their time together, and Ana becomes obsessed with tracking it down. But as her search intensifies, she realizes the hidden novel is just one of several mysteries surrounding the diary. This historical narrative is framed around fragments of truth: Zinaida was real. The eldest daughter of the Lintvariov family—Ukrainian landowners who rented a cottage to the Chekhovs in 1888—was indeed afflicted by a brain tumour. Chekhov wrote to his friend Aleksey Suvorin about her and her stoic acceptance of her fate. He also wrote her obituary.
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