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The Woman Who Waited: A Novel Hardcover – March 15, 2006

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Arcade Publishing (March 15, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1559707747
  • ISBN-13: 978-1559707749
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.9 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,603,663 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A sensuously styled, elegiac tale set in the mid-1970s, Makine's latest opens a window onto a generation of post-WWII Russian widows through one mysterious woman's vigil. In the village of Mirnoe on the northern White Sea coast, a young male journalist researching local customs meets an intriguing woman who has waited 30 years for her fiancé, reported killed, to return from the war. Just 16 when her lover was conscripted, Vera devotes herself selflessly to the care of the town's many war widows: she rows out to tend to the widows' graves on a nearby island and lives alone, ever watchful. The narrator, writing in retrospect but 26 at the time of the story, was educated in St. Petersburg; ironic and arrogant, he believes he has Vera's selflessness figured out as a prosaic, idealized vision of womanhood. And yet, he learns, Vera has studied advanced linguistics in St. Petersburg, and returned to Mirnoe by choice. The closer he gets to her, the more he is shamed in the face of her towering presence. Makine, now almost 50 and the author of eight other novels (including Dreams of My Russian Summers), lives in Paris; he transforms a very simple premise into a richly textured story of love and loss. (Mar.)
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From Booklist

This wonderful novel is set in what is known as the Soviet period of stagnation--the 1970s, or late Brezhnev era. The university-educated narrator wistfully looks back on a few months in mid-decade when he left his cynical and jaded friends in Leningrad to travel to a small provincial town near the White Sea. Ostensibly writing about provincial folk customs, but also hoping to gather material for an anti-Soviet satire, he instead meets Vera, a woman much older than he who has waited 30 years for her lover to return from World War II. Makine, whose previous novels include Dreams of My Russian Summers (1997), presents an elegantly enigmatic tale that explores a number of themes that may seem a little outdated to some readers but which meld seamlessly with the novel's mise-en-scene, including devotion, duty, and the contradiction between perception and truth. The latter is driven home by the complicated relationship between the narrator and Vera, and the brief moment when he all but morphs into her long-lost lover. Frank Caso
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Customer Reviews

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Thank you so much for your service.
Leonid G. Fleischman
Makine's work for me combines the grace and elegance of the best French writers and the sad dark soul of the best Russian writers.
Leonard Fleisig
Occasionally, he refers to the notes he wrote at the time ...almost with an air of "what WAS I thinking".
Craobh Rua

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Leonard Fleisig VINE VOICE on March 20, 2006
Format: Hardcover
William Shakespeare, Othello.

Andrei Makine's newest offering is "The Woman Who Waited". It is the story of a man pining for a woman he can never have, a woman living a life of "grievous beauty" waiting senselessly for a man who will never return. As with much of Makine's other works it is an elegiac prose-poem on loss and yearning. Although "The Woman Who Waited" did not have quite the same impact on me as some of Makine's earlier works ("Music of a Life" and "Dreams of My Russian Summers" come to mind) it is, nevertheless, a wonderfully realized piece of writing.

Makine, for those not familiar with his work, was born in the Soviet Union in 1958. He emigrated to France as a young man. He writes in French. (The Woman Who Waited was superbly translated from the French by Geoffrey Strachan, Makine's translator of choice). Makine's work for me combines the grace and elegance of the best French writers and the sad dark soul of the best Russian writers.

The unnamed narrator of Woman Who Waited is a cynical 26-year old resident of Leningrad. It is 1975, the midst of the Brezhnev era, and the narrator is part of a circle of artists and writers who chafe under the leaden weight of the regime. They smoke, drink, and scoff at notions of Soviet (and petit bourgeois) morality by adhering to notions of "free love". Random, emotion free couplings are the order of the day.

The narrator takes an opportunity to leave St. Petersburg to research customs and folk lore in the sub-Artic town of Mirnoe. Located close to the White Sea, near Murmansk and Archangelsk, Mirnoe is as close to a ghost town as you are likely to find. It is populated mostly by old ladies, a few old men, and just enough children in the area to support a one-room school house.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Friederike Knabe VINE VOICE on August 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover
"A woman, so intensely destined for happiness... refusing instead to love" characterizes Vera. She's a mysterious, strikingly attractive woman who captures the mind and heart of the young nameless narrator of this delicate, reflective love story that enchants the reader. Since age sixteen, Vera has been waiting faithfully for three decades for her soldier fiancé to return, living alone in an isolated northern Siberian village close to the White Sea. Andrei Makine is a master in exploring characters who survive at the edge of civilization, whether they are exiled political dissidents, ex-convicts, or the local people who belong to this remote harsh world. Here, he shows this at its most intimate level.

The plot itself is simple: a young man and an older woman meet during an important period in their lives and their worlds collide. Representing not only two generations, they also reflect two different visions of love, loyalty, altruism - life. It is highly relevant that the story unfolds against the remote, stunning landscape of the North, beautifully evoked by the author. There is undoubtedly a certain level of romanticizing of the Siberian environment - childhood home of Andrei Makine - in his detailed depiction of the forest emerging from the mist, the lake bathed in silvery moonlight, and even the very basic bathhouse that the community shares. It is, as the narrator reflects, a place frozen outside time.

Twenty-six-year-old Leningrad intellectual, jaded by the political environment there (it is the mid nineteen seventies and oblique references to Soviet reality seep into the story), arrives in Mirnoje to undertake research into the folklore of the North.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Craobh Rua on May 30, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Andrei Makine was born in Siberia in 1957, but has lived in Paris since 1987. He writes in French, rather than in Russian, and won both the Prix Medicis and the Prix Goncourt for "Le Testament Francais".

"The Woman Who Waited" looks back to the mid-1970s, and is set (mostly) in a Siberian village called Mirnoe. At the time, our narrator was a young writer in Leningrad, someone who viewed himself both a dissident and intellectual...although he was probably a little more pretentious and selfish than he cared to admit. Nevertheless, he was apparently starting to doubt his intellectual ways. He regularly met with his equals in a rundown studio known as the Wigwam, and the aftermath of one party led directly to his time in Mirnoe. (The party had an American journalist as its guest of honour, starred an awful poet reciting an awful poem and featured plenty of recreational sex with a number of different partners. Everyone was desperately trying to impress the American with just how western they all were, and our hero's girlfriend proving to be distressingly active. Perhaps unsurprisingly, his commitment to dissident literature began to wane a little that night).

One of the other revellers at the same party was Arkady Gorin - a poet who was off to Israel the next morning, after 6 years of being refused a visa. Arkady had been due to spend some time in Mirnoe to write a few reports on "local habits and customs". (He suggests the trip to our narrator - figuring it'll help pass the time, also noting that there should be plenty of great material for anti-Soviet satire). However, our storyteller soon discovers he'd have been better able to write these reports sitting in a nice warm library and that life in the village doesn't lend itself to satire.
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