My St. Petersburg Essay - Critical Essays

Martha Edith von Almedingen


My St. Petersburg makes a strong contrast with Almedingen’s autobiography published for adults, Tomorrow Will Come (1941). Although the adult book includes only about six more years of her life, it is a harrowing tale of the revolution and the first years after it, as the people of St. Petersburg endured terrible shortages of basic essentials. Even in its treatment of her years up to 1917, that book is very different.

In My St. Petersburg, Almedingen gives very little information about her immediate family. Her mother is mentioned frequently but is never developed as a personality; the author gives no sense of the woman of idealistic and inflexible character who sustained them through bitter hardships. Almedingen’s brothers closest to her in age, Gay and Cyril, are never mentioned, although they lived with her mother for a while until Gay was drowned and Cyril went off to school. She also does not discuss the agonizing gap in her young life caused by the absence of a father of whom other people spoke admiringly but whom she could only imagine.

The focus of My St. Petersburg is on the city that gave Almedingen a love for history and beauty. The portrait of the narrator that emerges is almost incidental. She was a bright child, inclined to be solitary, devoted to reading but not scholarly, shy in company but amazingly independent. In her preteen years, her “wanders” often took her miles from her home, even when she had no money for transportation. Sometimes, she suffered from the snubs of wealthy relatives or from the anger of a landlady who screamed at her that her mother has not paid the rent. Generally, however, she was so interested in the life around her that she did not feel sorry for herself.

The poverty that she mentions frequently is relative....

(The entire section is 747 words.)