Henri Troyat Virgilia Peterson - Essay

Virgilia Peterson

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

In "My Father's House" which spans the twenty-five years before the outbreak of the first world war Mr. Troyat sets out to write the chronicle of a few prosperous, provincial, bourgeois Russian families and leads them through the gathering storm of Nicholas the Second's reign to the moment when the first flash of lightning reveals even to the most wilfully blind the shape of doom….

[By introducing his characters in adolescence] in an entirely natural manner, the stage is set for the central drama to come, when as grown men, Michael and Volodia both desire Tania, and she as a woman, desires each of them.

But "My Father's House" is no mere account of the tensions within a triangle. This is a book in the grand style, a book of stature, thickly populated with characters each of whom is a rounded human being in whom reticence struggles with indiscretion, courage with baseness, love with hate, good with evil, as is the universal fate. This is a book in which scene after scene imprints itself upon your memory…. Moreover, behind, underneath, and intertwined with the narrative through the character of the reluctant revolutionary Nicholas, elder son of the Arapovs, there moves the boiling current of discontent among Russia's underprivileged which ran counterpoint to the surface gaiety of society, and was finally to choke not only old abuses but old splendors and magnanimities in the clenched fist of a new tyranny.

Virgilia Peterson, "A Chronicle of Old Russia," in New York Herald Tribune Book Review (© I.H.T. Corporation; reprinted by permission), October 28, 1951, p. 8.