INTERVIEW: The Lost Souls of Angelkov
**Listen to my interview with author Linda Holeman by downloading the podcast. Linda talks about her Russian grandmother, whose story inspired the book. She talks about the abolition of serfdom in Russia in the 1860s and how that changed the country 50 years before communism took over.
This book has intrigue, suspense, romance, exoticism, and history all in one.
Linda Holeman composes the plot like a Tchaikovsky symphony that builds to a big cadence at the end. And she peels away the overlapping storylines like the layers of an onion that’s so popular in Russian foods. I just had to use that comparison – The Lost Souls of Angelkov is a historical fiction about the abolition of serfdom in Russia in the 1860s.
In the opening scene, a group of Cossacks kidnaps Count Mitlovsky’s son, Misha, as the two were enjoying a ride through the Angelkov estate forest. The kidnappers demand a ransom. But getting the boy back won’t be as easy as exchanging him for a bag of rubles.
The countess, Antonina, is devastated by her son’s disappearance. She turns to the drink of choice in Eastern Europe, vodka, to drink her sorrows away.
Antonina will do anything to get her boy back, and her husband’s steward, Grisha, puts all his effort into finding Misha. He has reason to feel guilty about the family’s misfortune. And as the reader finds out through a slowly unfolding plot, Grisha has much more to feel guilty about after a childhood spent in Siberia.
Antonina was born into a noble household, and she married into another one. She is from a class of landowners in 19th century Russia.
Her father and her husband own hundreds of “souls,” or serfs. The count calls them his children. He tells Antonina, “I must be the father to them, to show them the error of their ways and teach them to never repeat mistakes.” The class distinction was just a natural order of things for the landowners.
The serfs had no choice but to work the fields for the landowner, and on top of that, they had to pay him taxes.
That changed in 1861 when the Emancipation Manifesto was introduced in Russia, abolishing serfdom. The way Holeman puts it, though, not much changed for the serfs at all.
Yes, they were all of a sudden free men and women. But the manifesto did nothing to lessen their poverty, and that itself is a form of confinement. To survive, some of the serfs formed communes, working pieces of land together and sharing the profits.
In my interview with Holeman, which you can download on the podcasts page, she says emancipation was the beginning of the communist movement that swept Russia in the 20th century.
Holeman has written several historical fictions on a variety of topics, but this one was closer to her heart because of her ancestors. The book was inspired by stories Holeman was told by her grandmother, who was born in Russia. Her grandmother’s brother was stolen when he was a boy, and he was never seen again.
Holeman used those childhood stories as a launch pad, to give the book some flavour. But she clearly did quite a bit of research to give the book its structure.
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