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The Summer Guest

A Novel

The Summer Guest by Alison Anderson
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The translator of The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Alison Anderson, delivers a remarkable literary novel—with a stunning conclusion—inspired by historical events, in which a diary weaves together the lives of three women: a dying Ukrainian doctor who befriends Anton Chekov in the 19th century, a modern-day London book editor, and the woman she hires to translate it into English.

During 1888, illness forces a young Ukranian doctor, Zinaida Mikhailovna, into premature retirement on her family’s rural estate. When a St. Petersburg family rents an estate cottage for the summer, Zinaida—newly blind from the condition that will eventually kill her—befriends the son, Anton Pavlovich. He is a writer of modest but growing fame who will soon be known to the world simply as Chekhov, an author renowned for his mastery of the short story . . . and for the fact that he never published a novel.

This historical narrative is framed around fragments of truth: Zinaida was real. The eldest daughter of the Lintvariov family—land-owners in Ukraine who rented a cottage to the Chekhovs in 1888—she was afflicted by a brain tumour. Chekhov wrote to his friend Aleksey Suvorin about her and her stoic acceptance of her fate. He also wrote her obituary.

In the frigid winter of 2014, Zinaida’s diary lands in translator Ana Harding’s inbox, sent by the proprietor of a small London press. Katya Kendall hopes to rescue the failing press, and her failing marriage, by publishing an English translation. Ana accepts the poorly paid project as a distraction from professional and romantic disappointments, and is soon consumed by Zinaida’s intense, reflective narrative of two summers spent with the Chekhovs as she confronts her death. In its pages, there are tantalizing hints indicating that Chekhov did write a novel, inspired by Zinaida during their time together, and Ana becomes obssessed with tracking it down. But, as her search intensifies, she realizes the hidden novel is just one of several mysteries surrounding the diary.

HarperCollins Canada; May 2016
400 pages; ISBN 9781443446839
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Title: The Summer Guest
Author: Alison Anderson
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