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Self Help

by Edward Docx

From New York and London, Paris and St. Petersburg, the members of a splintered family strive to adjust to their own bizarre history. Thirty-something twins,Gabriel and Isabella Glover, travel to St. Petersburg for the funeral of their mother, born Anastasiya Andreev, by marriage Maria Glover. The legacy of this fierce, generous and brilliant woman is an enigma. Gabriel and Isabella hardly know if they are dealing with a Russian doll or a Faberge Easter egg. In Paris their misanthropic father decides at last, and with ill grace, to concede the truth.

Edward Docz has extraordinary knowledge of European and Russian great cities, their streets, transport, moods, and vanities. Better still, he fully understands and appreciates their long and bitter old histories, their meanings, and what makes them so. He is unforgiving to all his characters but one (who dies young). They are sensitively drawn, but they are too well-lit to evoke anything but our exasperation and our fascination. Yet Docz knows very well how to keep the reader's attention glued to the page. His knowledge of souls trapped in webs of their own spinning is uncanny; his temperamental and highly-strung women are intriguing, yet he has time for the heavy matron glanced briefly in an ascending lift, as she adjusts her bags and shoulder straps; his objective insight into the habits of both the dealers and victims of heroin addiction is incisive, well-informed and very chilling; his depiction of the self-absorption of genius is unique. Docz loves the contradictions of human nature, and its paradox. There is a good deal of sturdy and well deserved hate in this book, which is dark and as bitter as aloes, but witty and alive with humour. Challenging and egregious, and full of surprises, this book is about love.

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