Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

She Promised to Wait and So She Did ; A Russian Woman Keeps a Lifelong Vigil for a Soldier Who Never Came Home from the War

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

She Promised to Wait and So She Did ; A Russian Woman Keeps a Lifelong Vigil for a Soldier Who Never Came Home from the War

Article excerpt

As her fiance heads off to fight in World War II, a teenage girl promises that she'll wait for him. He never comes back, but she never gives up. The woman who waits is a time-honored literary symbol that has starred in a number of novels, such as the enthralling "A Very Long Engagement," by French author Sebastien Japrisot.

Now Russian-born writer Andrei Makine adds another page to the annals of undying fidelity with his fine new novel The Woman Who Waited. Makine's books are deceptively slim: He can pack more in a page than many authors can wedge into a chapter. His international bestseller "Dreams of My Russian Summers," for example, features prose so rich a reader half expects mushrooms to sprout as she turns the pages. His ninth novel is less ambitious, but he uses what could have been a cliched romance to confound expectations.

The woman of the title is Vera, now a middle-aged schoolteacher who cares for the elderly residents of Mirnoe, a northern village that's been all but abandoned in Brezhnev's Soviet Union. Still beautiful, Vera has become a folk hero among the villagers during her 30-year vigil. "To begin with, there was nothing to distinguish Vera from the millions of other women who had lost their men. Like her they waited, young widows, forsaken lovers. No particular merit in that," says the narrator, a 20-something writer who's supposed to be cataloging Mirnoe's vanishing rituals but who has become fascinated by Vera. "This girl, this Vera, whose faithfulness at first passed unnoticed, later prompted respectful and sympathetic approval, then, as time went by, a mixture of weariness and irritation, the shrugging of shoulders reserved for village idiots; then, later still, indifference, sometimes giving way to the pride local people take in one of the curiosities of the region, a holy relic, a notably picturesque rock. One day, in the end, nothing remained of all that.... [Just] the pointlessness of all judgments, admiring or critical. Only this thought, hazy amid the air's radiance: 'That's how it is.' "

Vera is too strong and too busy, frankly, to fit passively into the preconceived notions of either the writer or the other men who fall in love with her. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.