ANNA by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles


Vol. I: The Kirov Saga
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 In a first US publication, veteran British writer Harrod- Eagles (20 previous novels) brings her not-inconsiderable skills to a grand-scale, if curiously lackluster, romance set against the complex political backdrop of the Napoleonic wars. The lovely and intelligent young heroine of her epic, Anne Peters, is quite alone in the world. Her mother died when she was small; her beloved father, a British naval officer who taught her the classics along with music, art, and horseback riding, died when she was 17. After his death, Anne is forced to become a governess, a humiliating demotion in social status. When an altercation with the silly and vain Lady Murray leaves her stranded in Paris shortly after the collapse of the 1802 Peace of Amiens, Anne is saved by charming Count Nikolai Sergeyevitch, who offers her the position of governess to his little girls. Once she is part of his large, comfortable household, Anna, as she is now called, falls in love with him. But he is a married man, and she a highly principled young woman, so she weds another wealthy Russian nobleman instead. The marriage makes her a countess and is balm to her pride, yet Anna is still not happy: her daughter Rose suffers from a horrible fever that leaves her crippled; and she is shocked to find her husband in the arms of another man. When the French invade Russia, it seems as if the whole world is coming to an end. But after all the personal and political upheavals she endures, Anna does find happiness. Nikolai's wife--never very strong--dies, and Anna's husband is killed, leaving her free to marry the Count at last. Action-packed narrative, competent handling of historical events, and some fine writing--but this never lives up to the grand promise of its epic proportions. The ending also has a distinctly ``To Be Continued'' quality, making for less than truly satisfying fiction.

Pub Date: Sept. 17th, 1991
ISBN: 0-312-06290-7
Page count: 640pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1991


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