Mother

By Maxim Gorky.

This was a good novel. At times it seemed a little over-the-top with some of the emotive language but this could have been the old translation. The book was written a hundred years ago too, for a political purpose, so we can give it some leeway. A good story.

As mentioned in the previous post Gorky has very strong female characters, which if you compare to the writers of his time is unique. I can’t imagine Conrad, despite his genius, having a character like ‘the mother’ – Vlasova. What is really interesting is the subtle movement (Gorky controls this very well) from an oppressed peasant, easily controlled, to a woman full of life and purpose. She always had those qualities, but the very narrow hand-to-mouth way she had been living kept her downtrodden and without hope.

I’m glad I read this, but I have to admit I like Gorky’s autobiographies more. Probably because there is more breadth. Mother, like the characters in the novel has political purpose. While this is understandable, it is maybe not as engaging to the modern reader. In context, we can see how this would have been an important novel for the working people in Russia at the turn of last century. The novel understood and highlighted their problems. Maybe it isn’t as sublime as Zola’s Germinal but Mother was a more direct call to action for the oppressed.

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