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Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 193

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[The Flute Player] is one of the most skillfull, moving and imaginative pieces of fiction I have read in years…. [Mr Thomas] has written a tremendously moving book dedicated to Mandelstam, Pasternak, Akhmatova and Tsvetaeva, a fantasy based sometimes loosely, sometimes very directly upon their lives and works, and above all on the survival of poetry, love and humanity in an imaginary city that bears a striking resemblance to Leningrad.

We are taken through a series of revolutions, NEPs, purges and thaws: history being re-written as myth. Although it uses Nadezhda Mandelstam's memoirs, and various poems, notably Akhmatova's 'Requiem' with its shattering epigraph, this is in no sense a roman à clef, and nor, more to the point, is it either pretentious or an act of hubris. The central character …, model, muse, nurse, prostitute, becomes something very close indeed to the spirit of music, and her survival through a series of ordeals that might appear exaggerated to those unfamiliar with 20th-century history is the story of the survival of poetry itself. (p. 21)

Alex de Jonge, "July SF," in The Spectator (© 1979 by The Spectator; reprinted by permission of The Spectator), Vol. 243, No. 7877, July 7, 1979, pp. 21-2.∗


Nicholas Shrimpton


Peter Kemp