An intimate look at a Ukranian legend of gold...
Debut author, Shevchenko, enlists her personal background to bring us the story of Polubotok’s gold.
In the eighteenth century, Polubotok (a noble Cossack family) is rumoured to have deposited a large amount of gold bullion in the Bank of England. If the legend is true, then the modern equivalent value is in the billions – a sum, which could alter the economic state of the Ukraine beyond all recognition – a fact that has not escaped the Russians for centuries and which has been staunchly guarded by the KGB. Leaping through time, we are introduced to young lawyer, Kate, who is unwittingly drawn into the modern search for the legendary gold. The instantaneous and somewhat bewilderingly intense relationship that sparks into life between Kate and the strange Ukrainian “client” and then once again between the secret agent, Taras and Kate is incongruous but an obvious plot essential. Perhaps Ukrainians feel things more immediately and intensely than we Brits?
Less of a thriller than a history lesson, with cryptic interludes and interesting historical snippets – Bequest is the story of an interchangeable cast of characters and the tumultuous relationship between Russian and the Ukraine. These seemingly disparate individuals seeing from their own personal vantage points are linked to each other through practically identical reactions, feelings and impressions. Clever, even if the maddening repetitiveness is tic inducing at times. Much is made of the letters based on dairy entries written by her own grandfather, but whilst they undoubtedly add a touch of authenticity, their impact is negligible.
Like rapid gunfire, the narrative is aimed and spat out at you in an altogether uncomfortable manner, making it hard to concentrate and even harder to be drawn into the plot until you get used to the author’s style. Those with less than the sternest of fortitude when it comes to investing time, effort and mental exhaustion into partaking of their beloved literature will no doubt find Bequest stultifying and dull. But then, literature of the likes of Bequest is rarely written with those readers in mind.
Am I satisfied? Curiously, yes, despite the author’s need to create a semi-happy ending for Kate, which sits at odds with the otherwise stark foreboding that permeates the book. Bequest is a peculiar mix of love, loss, national pride, horrifying childhood trauma, the darkness of the human soul and the extraordinary lengths man will go to in search of power and wealth.
We interview C J Daugherty about Night School
- 10 January 2012