Hers are slim volumes that, by their very perfection, put wordier efforts to shame
In 1913 the journey from Moscow to Charing Cross, changing at Warsaw, cost fourteen pounds, six shillings and threepence and took two and a half days. In the March of 1913 Frank Reid’s wife Nellie started out on this journey from 22 Lipka Street in the Khamovniki district, taking the three children with her - that is Dolly, Ben and Annushka. Annushka (or Annie) was two and three-quarters and likely to be an even greater nuisance than the others. However Dunyasha, the nurse who looked after the children at 22 Lipka Street, did not go with them.
This is the perfect opening of Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Beginning of Spring, written with her usual talent for sparse, meticulous prose. Hers are slim volumes that, by their very perfection, put wordier efforts to shame.
In March 1913, Frank Reid's wife abruptly leaves him and Moscow for her native England. The children, wonderfully self reliant and precocious, only make it a couple of train stops before being delivered back into the hands of the Moscow station master and from there to their bemused father.
(by Miranda Ingram)