This novel is really a family saga with one big twist at the end. The fact that the family is half Russian adds a subtle political dimension. Great descriptions of the squalor and criminality of St Petersburg (or as written in the book, simply Petersburg) as her citizens struggle to cope with their new found capitalist freedom in the early 1990s.
And it was no exaggeration to say that Arkady had been a child prodigy - the proud boast of Petersburg youth orchestras and the boy chosen to play for Gorbachev himself in 1984. ''They love orphans for Soviet times, Henry. We do not have problem of mothers, fathers. We are heroes of the great state. No parents to take the glory away.'
Certainly, at the age of seventeen, everything was set for Arkady's smooth transition to the St Petersburg State Conservatory and from there surely to Moscow and international stardom.
Then Mother Russia fell apart - again.