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Random House Canada, 2012, 538 pages

In Linda Holeman’s The Lost Souls of Angelkov, Antonina’s world is shattered when one day, her son, Misha, is kidnapped by men dressed as Cossacks. Her husband, the Count of Angelkov, is injured when he tries to prevent his son from taken.

Antonina turns to those closest to her: Grisha, the estate steward, who has a secret past he is ashamed of; and Lilya, Antonina’s personal maid and nanny who is deeply in love with her and jealously guards against those wanting to get closer to her.

As the events occur throughout the year Misha is gone, the Count undergoes an amputation for the infected arm that is injured from the kidnapping, and subsequently, he goes mad and dies. Now a widow of an estate that is heavily indebted, Antonina becomes closer to Grisha, but Lilya does everything to put a wedge between the two.

As the backdrop for the story, Russia is going through one of the most chaotic times in its history. The serfs have just been emancipated by Tsar Alexander II and as they deal with their new freedom, massive estates like Angelkov try to weather the immense costs and resources of losing all their slave labour. It is newly emancipated serfs that have kidnapped Misha for ransom.

Misha is eventually returned, though not without bloodshed. At the end, Antonina has moved to St. Petersburg with her sons and a couple of servants, still owning Angelkov and hoping one day to return there. Grisha, unfortunately, took part in the kidnapping and has been sent to a labour camp in Siberia. He hopes that Antonina and him will be together one day.

I really liked this book, but I really didn’t like the ending. I hoped that Antonina and Grisha ended up together, instead of an ambiguous ending that hinting they would in the future. Nevertheless, this was a great historical fiction novel. The background of the serf emancipation of the 1860s added such texture to the story. It also showed that almost no one was in charge of their own destiny while people were still bound to the landowners. Even Antonina was not allowed to choose her own destiny, despite her wealth: she was told by her father who she would be marrying and once she was married, her husband dictated her life.

Russia’s history was shaped by these violent changes – of a country shedding the shackles of feudalism and patriarchy. Once serfs were freed, it opened up Russian society and gave people the chance to make their own life. The Lost Souls of Angelkov paints a picture of Russia as such an enchanting, but merciless place, filled with vodka, sexual temptation, loss, and hope.

Rating:

{  } Pretty bad
{  } Tolerable
{  } All right
{x} Exciting
{  } Enthralling

Book 52 out of 60

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