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Frank had been born and brought up in Moscow. His father emigrated there in the 1870s and started a print-works which, by 1913, had shrunk from what it was when Frank inherited it. To add to his troubles, Frank's wife takes off without explanation
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Book Level: 6.8
Interest Level: UY
Quiz Number: 203771
Shortlisted for the Booker Prize.
It is March 1913, and the grand old city of Moscow is stirring herself to meet the beginning of spring. Change is in the air, and nowhere more so than at 22 Lipka Street, the home of English printer Frank Reid.
One day Frank's wife Nellie takes the train back to England, with no explanation, leaving him with their three young children. Into his life comes Lisa Ivanovna, a country girl, untroubled to the point of seeming simple. But is she? And why has Frank's accountant Selwyn, gone to such lengths to bring them together? And who is the passionate Volodya, who breaks into the press at night?
Frank sees, but only dimly, that he is a rational man in Moscow, a city where love, and friendship, power and politics, are at their most unfathomable.
'Reading a Penelope Fitzgerald novel is like being taken for a ride in a peculiar kind of car. Everything is of top quality - the engine, the coachwork and the interior all fill you with confidence. Then, after a mile or so, someone throws the steering-wheel out of the window.' Sebastian Faulks
'Wise and ironic, funny and humane, Fitzgerald is a wonderful, wonderful writer.' David Nicholls
'For the life of me I can't decide how properly to respond to this book. Whether it contains a latent moral or allegorical message, or whether it is simply a tour de force of craft and imagination I have not the faintest idea. I only know that it is one of the most skilful and utterly fascinating novels I have read for years. I cannot imagine any kind of reader who would not get a thrill from this gloriously peculiar book.' Jan Morris, Independent
'Penelope Fitzgerald has produced a real Russian comedy, at once crafty and scatty. She has mastered a city, a landscape and a vanished time. She has written something remarkable, part novel, part evocation, and done so in prose that never puts a foot wrong. She is so unostentatious a writer that she needs to be read several times. What is impressive is the calm confidence behind the apparent simplicity of utterance. "The Beginning of Spring" is her best novel to date.' Anita Arookner, Spectator