The Summer Guest, Alison Anderson: Book Review

summer guest alison anderson book reviewHarper Perennial / Alison Anderson
The Summer Guest Book Cover The Summer Guest
Alison Anderson
Adult Fiction
Harper Perennial

“The blind doctor, Zinaida Lintvaryova, stays in my heart long after I close Alison Anderson’s beautifully written book. The young Chekhov himself cannot outshine Zinaida as she urgently explores life, science, art, family, and love, her passion defying death.”
— Helen Simonson, New York Times bestselling author of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand

“In an enchanting era-spanning novel, Anderson crafts a literary mystery that goes beyond the limits of time.”
Entertaiment Weekly, “Must List”

When a family from Moscow rents a cottage on young, blind Ukrainian doctor Zinaida Lintvaryova's rural family estate in the summer of 1888, she develops a deep bond with one of their sons, a doctor and writer of modest but growing fame called Anton Pavlovich Chekhov. Intelligent, curious, and increasingly introspective as her condition worsens, Zinaida keeps a diary chronicling this extraordinary friendship that comes to define the last years of her life.

In the winter of 2014, Katya Kendall’s London publishing house is floundering-as is her marriage. Katya is convinced that salvation lies in publishing Zinaida’s diary, and she approaches translator Ana Harding about the job. As Ana reads the diary, she is captivated by the voice of the dying young doctor. And hidden within Zinaida’s words, Ana discovers tantalizing clues suggesting that Chekhov—who was known to have composed only plays and short stories—actually wrote a novel during his summers with Zinaida that was subsequently lost. Ana is determined to find Chekhov’s “lost” manuscript, but in her search she discovers it is but one of several mysteries involving Zinaida’s diary.

Inspired by fragments of historical truth, The Summer Guest is a transportive, masterfully written novel about an unusual, fascinating friendship that transcends the limits of its time and place. It’s also a contemporary story about two compelling, women, both of whom find solace in Zinaida and Chekhov as they contemplate all that’s missing in their own lives.

This review contains quotes from the book.

*Special thanks to Harper Perennial for allowing us to read Alison Anderson’s The Summer Guest.

Alison Anderson writes a moving story about four people whose lives become entwined with each other with The Summer Guest.

During the summer of 1888, Zinaida Lintvaryova moves to her family’s country estate because her health is declining. She plans on spending the summer alone, but the Chekhov family shows up to spend their summer there. Zinaida journals all of her experiences she has at the estate, including the time she spends with the middle Chekhov child, Anton. Anton is a famous literary writer, but he becomes notable to many later on in his life. My favorite part of this story was the way Zinaida wrote about her time spent with Anton. You could tell they made a real connection with each other.

“He paused until I heard him say in a quiet, intense voice, as if speaking to me alonehe was sitting next to meThis is a place not only for poetry or stories or plays. It is a place for writing novelson that scale. I should like to write a novel, of course, if only I had the time.

But you will have the time, surely, I ventured.”

— excerpt from Alison Anderson’s The Summer Guest

A century later, Katya Kendall is the other narrator and she has a dilemma with her publishing house going under. Until one day she reads Zinaida’s diary and discovers that Anton planned on writing a novel. Only that a novel was never published by him: he only published short stories and plays. So Katya plans on finding this missing manuscript to not only help out her publishing company, but also to change history.

Katya then brings in Ana Harding to help translate the works. While Ana is reading Zinaida’s diary, she thinks that the novel may not be the only secret in the diary. So Ana feels a need to find the novel and figure out what else happened between Zinaida and Anton.

I truly enjoyed this novel because of the history behind it. Zinaida’s journal is based on a true story. I love how Anderson dived into history and brought Zinaida and Anton’s relationship to light. I connected to Katya the most because I would do anything to find out new history. Especially if I had access to the journal like Katya does. I also respected Ana because she never stops searching for clues within the pages of the journal. She is bound and determined to see the project through. I recommend this to anyone who loves a beautifully written historical fiction novel.

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Jessica Duffield
the authorJessica Duffield
Contributing Writer
I am a sophomore in college. Books are my passion and I hope to work in book publishing once I graduate.