Forethoughts: Bequest by Anna Shevchenko

Bequest by Anna Shevchenko Thankfully the blogging blood is finally coursing through my body again, and it’s time to move on to my 2nd read of this new year, Bequest, the promising debut novel from Ukrainian-born author Anna Shevchenko, which is published by Headline this very week (7th January).

You may remember me talking about Bequest only a couple of days ago, when I featured it as a Daily Bookshot. I said then how excited I was about reading a novel which had so much unique and ‘real’ history woven into it. And standing on the threshold of folding over the aesthetically appealing front cover – which is emblazoned with a creatively doctored yet wholly relevant shot of St. Michael’s Cathedral, Kiev – my heart is still pounding with just as much excitement.

As it happens I was listening to Anna Shevchenko promoting Bequest on the Radio 3 programme Night Waves on Wednesday evening (if you’re in the UK you can still (at the time of writing) catch up with the 45 minute show on this page. If you want to fast forward directly to the Shevchenko interview, it can be found at around the 34:30 minute mark). It’s the first time I’ve heard Shevchenko speak (as I’m sure would the case for the majority of fellow readers who tuned in), and what an inspiration she is. Articulate, intelligent and ‘equipped’ with an impressive multilingual arsenal of seven languages (skills which she’s used to great effect in her professional career as a linguist and mediator), Shevchenko reveals during her interview that growing up she always wanted to be a writer, but her family always told her – due to the Soviet system always considering writers to be dissidents – to keep her ambitions of authorship under wraps. So it’s going to be really interesting to see how this unleashing of a childhood ambition is going to translate into Shevchenko’s fictional writing. {{1}}

Shevchenko is obviously very proud of her heritage (as anyone would be), and well aware of the repression of her people under the Soviet system. And that worries me somewhat into thinking that Bequest will turn out to be nothing more than a vehicle for delivering some kind of weighty political message. I’m under no illusions given the theme of the story that politics will feature greatly in Bequest, but I’m just hoping it doesn’t turn out to be a labourious and dry affair. That said, after all I’ve read about the novel so far, I don’t think it’s going to be, especially when one remembers that the war diaries of a Cossack historian – Shevchenko’s grandfather remember – have been infused into the narrative.

Anyway we’ll have to see how it all works out. I begin reading Bequest today and I’ll be back in the next few days to let you know how I got on. Meantime keep an eye on my reading journal (which gets brought back into service from today) for updates on my progress. For now do pobachennya, which I’m reliably informed by the Internet is the Ukrainian for goodbye :).

NOTE: My afterthoughts for Bequest have now been posted.

Headline | January 2010 | £19.99 | HARDBACK | 346 PP | ISBN: 9780755356362

[[1]] I make a point of adding the word ‘fictional’ because although this is Shevchenko’s first novel she has previously written two books on cross-cultural communication.[[1]]

A note about Forethoughts
‘Forethoughts’ offer an insight into what my initial thoughts and impressions of a book are, before I begin reading it. Informal, and largely written as a stream-of-consciousness exercise in a single sitting, my ‘forethoughts’ capture an important stage of the reading experience for me – the anticipatory period before the book is first opened, when my excitement is piqued for the reading experience which lies ahead.

Blissfully ignorant my ‘forethoughts’ may well be, but when they’re combined with my eventual ‘afterthoughts’, the result is a unique and comprehensive record of a very personal literary ‘journey’ through a particular book; a literary journey which will hopefully be of some value to other readers.

About Rob

Rob, a self-confessed bibliophile, is without any hope of rehabilitation. He gets unnaturally excited over anything book-shaped, and if book sniffing were a crime then he would have been locked up years ago (which wouldn't bother him in the slightest provided his cell was lined with books).


  1. Hello Rob,

    First and foremost, happy new year !

    This book sounds quite interesting, I’ll follow your post on the subject.