The White Russian
In 1937 young American socialite Evie Vanderhorst flees her stifling family, and heads to Paris to meet her estranged, highly unconventional grandmother – only to find her dying of a stroke. Soon she finds herself alone, with an apartment full of modern paintings, and a scrawled note imploring her to set things right with someone named Zhenya. When she embarks on a quest to fulfil the dying wish of the grandmother she barely met, Evie crosses paths with the White Russians downstairs, ineffectually conspiring against the Soviets, and with their commander’s moody son, who would much rather let the past lie. Little she knows, as she uncovers old secrets, grows up, and falls in love, that something sinister is afoot… This is a bittersweet story about finding oneself, and the weight and value of the past. Bennett finely captures an unusual Paris, seen through the double lens of Evie’s naïveté and the White Russian’s soured romanticism. A thoughtful, pleasant read.