Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Written as a first-person narrative, Katia tells the story of a little Russian girl of an upper-class family, from the death of her mother in 1834 when she was five until 1842, when she entered the Catherine Nobility Institute in Moscow. Although it is often classified as fiction, E. M. Almedingen’s book is based on the autobiographical work Istoryya malen’koy dyevochki (1874; the story of a little girl), one of the classic children’s books of Russia that was written by Almedingen’s great-aunt, Catherine Almedingen.

Except for an author’s note that precedes the narrative, there is no indication that Katia became Ekaterina Alekseevna Sysoeva, the wife of a wealthy landowner and a prominent woman of letters noted for translating many English and American classics for young people, for writing books for children and adults, and for founding Rodnik, a distinguished Russian monthly for children. The story opens just after Katia’s mother’s death in the huge family home in Tver (later Kalinin), a town north-west of Moscow. Katia was mostly ignored and neglected by her grieving father and by the many friends and servants thronging the house, who were preoccupied by the severe illness of her older brother. From this bewildering and unhappy existence, she was adopted by her father’s cousin Sophie and taken by coach on a journey of many weeks south to Trostnikova, the vast estate of Uncle Nicholas Mirkov in “Little...

(The entire section is 497 words.)