In the deep mid-winter a recommendation from a “book whisperer”
I said, “Leah, it’s cold and wintery and I want to read something that reflects this time of year — cold, dead, and quiet but with that hopeful anticipation of spring. I want something romantic and whimsical and Russian because they know that longing for light and warmth like no other people. Something real and raw and full of human longing. Throw something at me!”
She came back with Laurus by Evgenij Vodolazkin, (Eugene Vodolazkin).
I’m only about 100 pages in but I can tell this is going to be one of those rare books that I actually end up owning. I have it on loan from my library right now, which is where all my books start out. The ones I truly love, that I connect with on such a deep level they become like friends, are the ones that can make me part with money to become part of my permanent collection. This is one such book I plan to revisit over and over.
“It is the late fifteenth century and a village healer in Russia is powerless to help his beloved as she dies in childbirth, unwed and without having received communion. Devastated and desperate, he sets out on a journey in search of redemption. But this is no ordinary journey: it is one that spans ages and countries, and which brings him face-to-face with a host of unforgettable, eccentric characters and legendary creatures from the strangest medieval bestiaries. Laurus’s travels take him from the Middle Ages to the Plague of 1771, where as a holy fool he displays miraculous healing powers, to the political upheavals of the late-twentieth century. At each transformative stage of his journey he becomes more revered by the church and the people, until he decides, one day, to return to his home village to lead the life of a monastic hermit – not realizing that it is here that he will face his most difficult trial yet.
Laurus is a remarkably rich novel about the eternal themes of love, loss, self-sacrifice and faith, from one of Russia’s most exciting and critically acclaimed novelists.”
My own summary would be: It’s simply magic.
I am lost in the life of Arseny and his grandfather, Christofer. The pages transport you to a time when wonder-working and everyday life is porous. It’s a completely earthly story but at the same time utterly otherworldly.
If you need an escape, this is the book you can retreat to.
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