Vanessa V. Friedman
June 03, 1994 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The Russian Girl

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Kingsley Amis
genre
Fiction

We gave it a B

Richard Vaisey, a Russian scholar at the London Institute of Slavonic Studies, represents the latest type — the overly intellectual, repressed bourgeoisie — to be skewered by Kingsley Amis’ poison pencil in The Russian Girl. Richard’s decidedly comfortable existence is due to his marriage to a wealthy, manipulative, and egocentric member of the leisure class. Conflict comes in the form of one Anna Danilova, a terrible Russian poet visiting England to raise support for a petition to free her brother, a petty thief unfairly held in a Soviet prison. Richard falls for Anna, and in doing so, also falls into a tailor-made trap: professional integrity versus love. Richard’s struggle, and the assorted characters he encounters in his travails, provide Amis with the ammunition to joust amusingly at any number of poses and prejudices. However, the prose-being appropriately English-can be somewhat opaque, and the satire is unrelentingly heartless. In the end, the novel falls prey to the same disease it purports to mock: Englishness. B

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