Paris, St Petersburg, London, The Amazon Rainforest – The Last Kiss Goodbye – Tasmina Perry

last kiss goodbye

Why a booktrail?

A faded photograph starts a search for the love lost across the years

Story in a nutshell

1961.

Rosamund Bailey is ready to change the world. She is young, wants to fight for what she believes in and meets her match in Dominic Blake. He is an explorer and also wants to break down boundaries and to leave his mark on the world. When tragedy strikes however, a faded photo of their last kiss is all that remains

2014.

Deep in the vaults of a museum, A faded photo of a lingering kiss is found by archivist Abby Morgan. Fascinated by this one moment frozen in time, she sets out to find out who this couple were and what happened all those years ago.

Place and setting

From London, to Paris, to St Petersburg and the Amazon Rainforest...
From London, to Paris, to St Petersburg and the Amazon Rainforest…

A story set in Paris, London, and deep in the heart of the Amazon jungle, time and places separated by years and decades of a lost love. Lost in every sense of the world.

London

he British Cartographic Society c/o Royal Geographical Society 1 Kensington Gore London SW7 2AR Could this be where Abby works?  Egerton Crescent - where Victoria lives Highgate Cemetery - Rosamund lives close to here Waterloo Bridge Waterloo Bridge - an iconic spot in Rosamund and Dominic’s story Kew Gardens - Elliot gives Abby a tour around here http://www.kew.org/visit-kew-gardens
The British Cartographic Society
c/o Royal Geographical Society
1 Kensington Gore
Could this be where Abby works?
Egerton Crescent – where Victoria lives
Highgate Cemetery – Rosamund lives close to here
Waterloo Bridge – an iconic spot in Rosamund and Dominic’s story
Kew Gardens – Elliot gives Abby a tour around here
http://www.kew.org/visit-kew-gardens

The story of the photograph first comes to light in the vaults of the Royal Cartography Institute where it is featured in an exhibition and christened ‘The Last Kiss Goodbye’.

This is the London where Dominic and Rosamund start their love affair. From Waterloo Bridge, to the parties of Eaton Square, their London is one of a whirlwind love affair

The world is changing, women are fighting for their rights and for what they deserve, sexual liberation is being mixed up faster than the cocktails in the swinging jazz clubs.

St Petersburg

“Back in the sixties, most of the Russian newspapers were state controlled”

These were dangerous times for the world is changing on the international stage too. The Cold War is in full swing and the murky world of espionage and diplomatic manoeuvres is a a world that is not as far away as young, free couples might imagine. Abby’s research soon takes her into the dark world of the KGB and Soviet spies for Dominic was an influential man who hob-nobed in his job as editor of Capital magazine. This world however is one which evokes the secrecy, uncertainty and duality of the times.

“The Russians wanted us to believe that there were traitors in every sector of our ruling elite. They wanted to destabilise us”

Paris

The sixties were just as swinging in Paris as they were elsewhere. Rosamund and Dominic spend time here with each other enjoying each other as well as the city’s literary heritage with visits to Les Deux Magots where Sartre and his contemporaries would sit and talk. The world here is an exciting one on the edge of something big. Times are a changing and the memories created here are some that Rosamund will savour for years to come.

The  Amazon

However three such disparate and seemingly unconnected locations link up a story that twists and turns with one photo at its centre. Dominic, lost on an expedition to the far flung Amazon jungle with its humidity, the pitiless sun coupled with the biblical downpours.

Lost and never found, his whereabouts a ghostly imprint. Abby, assisted by Rosamund search for what went so terribly wrong all those years and miles away.

Bookish musings

What a  story! From one photo I was transported not just via locations but through many different emotions as I followed Dominic’s and Rosamund’s story with anticipation. Going back to the 1960s with a story of love and subterfuge was an exciting literary journey and the contrast of the troubled times with the Cold war in the background was a fascinating insight into the period.

I loved Dominic’s and Rosamund’s story, the challenges they faced, the struggles they had to endure and the cloud of suspicion that has hung over both of them ever since. What did happen to Dominic in that jungle? I was dying to find out. Having Rosamund help Abby in the present day was a great way to discover things together with the characters.

The love story is at the centre of course but what a twisting and turning story of hope, secrets and a changing world. So many contrasts which fitted so well together. And it all started with one frozen moment captured on film. A shocking secret buried in time is revealed and the journey  to find it is one of the most fascinating I’ve been on in a long while.

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A Russian jewel in the literature crown

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As with Turkey, the incredible country we featured yesterday and its city pick guide, we booktrailers do not have much experience of Russia either. However, when there is a city pick guide on St Petersburg, you don’t need to go there for real. But if you do, your visit will be all the richer if you read this before you go –

Anna Pavlova describes her school days

Vladimir Nabokov re-lives a St Petersburg winter

Helen Dunmore plunges us into the worst of times

Dmitry Shostakovich reveals a musical secret

Truman Capote takes Porgy and Bess to the Soviets

Nikolai Gogol walks us down Nevsky Prospekt

I am personally fascinated by this city, mostly due to my literary wanderings with Russian literature I have come across on my travels in bookshops. Well this book has a wealth of snippets from non- fiction and fiction to be able to tempt you around St Petersburg and maybe even further afield!

St Petersburg - image courtesy  of Wikipedia
St Petersburg – image courtesy of Wikipedia

St. Petersburg is a dream of a city –

The founding of St Petersburg in 1703 was Peter the Great’s ‘I have a dream’ moment. He did, indeed, have a clear vision of the elegant, enlightened European-style city on the River Neva…

 

These short introductory texts lead nicely into the range of writers who each in turn give their impression of the city either in a short paragraph or a section of their book. Perfect for hoping in and out of as you would ona tour of the city itself.

Helen Dunmore is the first to take the literary stand –

Floating, lyrical, miraculous Petersburg, made out of nothing by a Tsar who wanted everything and didn’t care what it cost. Peter’s window on Europe, through which light shines. Here’s beauty built on bones. classical facades that cradled revolution, summers that lie in the cup of winter.

The epauletted shoulders f the Winter Palace - image courtesy of Wikipedia
The epauletted shoulders of the Winter Palace – image courtesy of Wikipedia

In Duncan Fallowell’s One Hot Summer in St Petersburg for example –

..the winter canal and beyond it the epauletted shoulders of the Winter Palace……

And then there’s Malcolm Bradbury whose novel To the Hermitage contains the kind of historical information that makes it come alive right off the page. Peter the Great for example becomes a very colourful character –

A boisterous young man who broke windows, turfed friends, acquaintances, even total strangers into hedges, he drank and whored with the best.

 

A trip through not only the city of St Petersburg but also of Russia and its past. Visit places in novels – not just of the one or two you may know such as War and Peace and Anna Karenina – discover more about Russian literature and authors, walk down the same streets and meet people from history.

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All in one book.

Quite a read

A Russian gem

 A great Russian read
A great Russian read

I suppose to a lot of people, when you mention Russian literature to them you would think of maybe Anna Karenina and War and Peace  and more often than not something which may be considered a little boring I would think. But Russian literature is a hidden gem in my eyes. I started out with the easy novels and children’s books as always and even still have my first dual easy reader (French-Russian) as I couldn’t find an English-Russian book. But the time has come to grow up with the Russian lit I told myself and with a Russian styled work project approaching, I thought to myself what better time!

The Government inspector by  Nickolai Gogol.

Essentially, it’s a farce about corruption and stupidity in the local government in Tsarist Russia. But it’s the books clever simplicity which is the real star and which goes even further in emphasising the serious nature of the story.

The plot centres on a small provincial town whose name is never mentioned.  The people there have discovered that the imperial government is sending an undercover inspector to look into the efficiency of its institutions. Since the whole of the town’s administration is corrupt, this is not welcome news. When they hear of a young man from St Petersburg who is staying in one of the town’s inns, they assume that he must be the inspector. They flatter and bribe him, but of course the joke is that he is not really the inspector at all.

The potential for farce and comedy here are huge  and as I remembered a plot using a hotel inspector in an episode of Fawlty towers, this brought a smile to my face even before I’d read  very far in the book.

However, although the play does also amount to an attack on the local governmental institutions themselves, it is the way in which it is written, that is so clever and funny. Penned in the early 1800s, the political atmosphere of the time must have been quite severe and restrictive, yet the comedy shines through and the whole book could be transmitted across the ages to more or less any country to some degree. In particular , the characters Bobchinsky and Dobchinsky will remind English speaking readers in particular  of a variation of Tweedledum and Tweedledee or the two male puppets Statler and Waldorf,who sit in the balcony on the Muppet Show. (Incidentally I discovered years ago that these two muppets were named after classic hotels in New York, so this was once part of my NY tour at the time)

Standing in Red Square amongst the government buildings,  the grandeur of the past is omnipresent on so many levels. But having read The Government Inspector, I felt I had peeled a little layer away and seen a hidden and surprisingly fun level of Russian society that I had never expected to discover. I’ve always thought that the towers and grandeur of the Russian architecture does sadly not reflect the history or politics but it is represented in this book – the hidden comedy and secret layers of a society and its people.

If you visit Russia, you cannot fail to be moved by the beauty of Red Square but it’s the streets and buildings of the government quarters that really give you a keener sense of what this book is talking about and the hidden secrets deep within.