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The son of an English father and a Russian mother, Charlie Doig is a big man -- big in stature and big in spirit. A naturalist, he roughs it around the world collecting birds and insects for museums. In 1914 he is on a mission for the Academy of Sciences in Russian Turkestan when war breaks out. His pay is stopped and his companion goes off to enlist. Doig, however, has no intention of volunteering to be killed. He returns to the Pink House, his family's home near Smolensk, and to the woman he loves, his cousin Elizaveta.
At first the Pink House remains almost untouched by outside events, and the familiar ways continue as before. But imperial Russia is doomed and with it all the old certainties. Trapped by the snow with Doig and Elizaveta are a motley collection of old aristocrats, their servants and hangers-on -- and two soldiers who have sought refuge with them, one of whom, Doig fears, is a Bolshevik out to destroy them all.
Beautifully written, richly imagined, by turns savage and tender, this exhilarating novel confirms James Fleming as one of the very best novelists at work today.