A family not quite any other: Sergej and Olga have long lost the connection between each other, they live their lives together apart. Also their son Seryozha only plays a random role in their life. The fourth member of this strange family is Liza, Olga’s sister who is not much older than Seryozha and has always been his confidant. When the parents move further apart – also geographically – the son suddenly finds himself on the French Riviera alone with his aunt and falls in love with her. This love is returned, but Liza secretly has had an affair for years which could be revived due to the separation of Seryozha’s parents.
Gazdanov presents a complicated Russian family and business construct which unfolds itself slowing during the novel. Yet, hidden affairs, a lot of secrets kept from each other for a long time find their way on the surface and put the character to difficult decisions. The basic human instincts can be found in Gazdanov’s characters, their greed, envy and pride lead them into the abyss, a positive ending is not offered for them. We do not have the highly complicated novel here with masses of characters as we find in other Russian writers which makes it a lot easier to follow the plot, nevertheless there are some side plots which give insight in how the Russian community all over Europe worked and stuck together.