Days in the Caucasus
Banine, Anne Thompson-Ahmadova
Mr B's review
This coming of age memoir is a poignant, irreverent window onto a world you can scarcely believe existed. The author, Banine, was born in Baku, Azerbaijan in 1905. Her Muslim grandfather was fabulously wealthy; having discovered an oilfield on his land and Banine’s delightfully eccentric extended family spend much of her childhood trying to marry into the money. The family’s fortune – and their entire way of life – is ultimately at risk though, from the impending Russian Revolution.
We all know families that are poor but ‘respectable’. Mine, in contrast, was extremely rich but not ‘respectable’ at all…
This is the unforgettable memoir of an ‘odd, rich, exotic’ childhood, of growing up in Azerbaijan in the turbulent early twentieth century, caught between East and West, tradition and modernity.
Banine remembers her luxurious home, with endless feasts of sweets and fruit; her beloved, flaxen-haired German governess; her imperious, swearing, strict Muslim grandmother; her bickering, poker-playing, chain-smoking relatives. She recalls how the Bolsheviks came, and they lost everything. How, amid revolution and bloodshed, she fell passionately in love, only to be forced into marriage with a man she loathed- until the chance of escape arrived.
By turns gossipy and romantic, wry and moving, Days in the Caucasus is a coming-of-age story and a portrait of a vanished world. Banine shows us what it means to leave the past behind, and how it haunts us.
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