Bev served us a Russian feast including her homemade Gravlax, pickled beets, cabbage rolls, meatballs, and apple cake:-)
The book was a complete departure from other books written by Julian Barnes and its subject, a very famous 20th century Russian composer, was previously unknown to all of us except Jill who wrote; “It was a poignant evening for me, as Shostakovich was one of my mother’s favourite composers, she played his symphonies often and spoke highly of him. How she would have enjoyed the discussion.”
I’m not certain how many of us actually enjoyed the book, but it generated great discussion and enlightened us a little about what it was like to live in Russia during Stalin’s regime. As with all the books we have discussed recently this one was timely in subject and provoked discussions of the current state of the world, with Trump and Putin’ governments in power and the pendulum swing away from tolerance and moderation to control, divisiveness and fear.
Bev sent us the following documentary about Hitler’s Siege of Leningrad and Shostakovich’s 7th Symphony.
About the book:
“Barnes’s latest novel is a gripping fictionalized account of the composer’s life, and the anguished compromises he made under Stalin” The Guardian
“In 1936, Shostakovitch, just thirty, fears for his livelihood and his life. Stalin, hitherto a distant figure, has taken a sudden interest in his work and denounced his latest opera. Now, certain he will be exiled to Siberia (or, more likely, executed on the spot), Shostakovitch reflects on his predicament, his personal history, his parents, various women and wives, his children—and all who are still alive themselves hang in the balance of his fate. And though a stroke of luck prevents him from becoming yet another casualty of the Great Terror, for decades to come he will be held fast under the thumb of despotism: made to represent Soviet values at a cultural conference in New York City, forced into joining the Party and compelled, constantly, to weigh appeasing those in power against the integrity of his music.
Barnes elegantly guides us through the trajectory of Shostakovitch’s career, at the same time illuminating the tumultuous evolution of the Soviet Union. The result is both a stunning portrait of a relentlessly fascinating man and a brilliant exploration of the meaning of art and its place in society.” Goodreads.com