PYOTR ILYICH: a masterful triumph of biographical fiction

Posted: December 9, 2014 in Uncategorized

Artists are born and bred to fascinate, and one only needs to look throughout history at the countless examples of art speaking boldly where mere words weren’t enough to do so. Since artists gain a huge following most of the time, one is tempted to assume that the life of an artist is widely known to his adoring public. But there are cases of figures in the history of art who have such mysterious destinies that one can realize that however familiar they might be with the public side of their life, with their work and all the opinions it has produced, there’s not as much to be said about their knowledge of the private, inner life of artists.

Thankfully, there’s a beautiful human innovation known as biographical fiction. If I were to be asked what advantage it has over actual biographies, I’d say two very simple, yet profound words: “more heart”.

Such is the case of PYOTR ILYICH, a sprawling, epic, masterful novel of the life and times of Tchaikovsky, the most famous Russian composer, written by Adin Dalton, who was awesome enough to provide me with a copy, for which I am wholeheartedly grateful. Because of the imminent need for a disclaimer, I state that all the views I express within this review are my own, and should be read as such. With that out of the way, on to the review in itself.

The first thing you should know is that the book is quite a hefty tome. At over 660 pages, it’s no walk in the park. The awesome part is that it’s so well-written that the pages just keep turning and turning. It’s a cinematic, in-depth exploration of the life of one of the greatest figures in the history of classical music, which offers gripping, dramatic details about his professional and personal life, shedding light on things only whispered about at a certain point. I like and applaud the fact that the author chose to discuss the homosexuality of Tchaikovsky. I mean, if the records state its existence, sweeping it under the carpet would be covering up historical fact. Those who fret upon this need not worry, it’s done tastefully and not insisted too much upon. The story of Tchaikovsky is that of a creative, sensitive, brilliant outsider, and Ms. Dalton weaves it with much skill and gusto, in the vein of Irving Stone. Readers will feel as though walking with Pyotr Ilyich from conservative, homely Russia, to dearly decadent Paris or boisterous New York. Their hearts will go out to him as he experiences the struggle of being different. They will see him at work on his masterpieces, and learn what it was like to actually BE Tchaikovsky. How did women influence him? What is the story behind all the music? How did he actually die? (WOW ending!). All these questions find their answers in the pages of this triumph of biographical fiction which is the best Russian novel by a non-Russian I’ve come across. It is my honor to give it 10 out of 5 stars! Thank you, Ms. Dalton. Brilliant  job!

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