New York: The New York Review of Books, 2014.Soft cover, 180 pp.
Alexander Pushkin’s short novel is set during the reign of Catherine the Great, when the Cossacks rose up in rebellion against the Russian empress. Presented as the memoir of Pyotr Grinyov, a nobleman, The Captain’s Daughter tells how, as a feckless youth and fledgling officer, Grinyov was sent from St. Petersburg to serve in faraway southern Russia. Traveling to take up this new post, Grinyov loses his shirt gambling and then loses his way in a terrible snowstorm, only to be guided to safety by a mysterious peasant. With impulsive gratitude Grinyov hands over his fur coat to his savior, never mind the cold.
Soon after he arrives at Fort Belogorsk, Grinyov falls in love with Masha, the beautiful young daughter of his captain. Then Pugachev, leader of the Cossack rebellion, surrounds the fort. Resistance, he has made it clear, will be met with death.
At once a fairy tale and a thrilling historical novel, this singularly Russian work of the imagination is also a timeless, universal, and very winning story of how love and duty can summon pluck and luck to confront calamity.