A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library
In our parts such characters sometimes turn up that, however many years ago you met them, you can never recall them without an inner trembling. To the number of such characters belongs the merchant’s wife Katerina Lvovna Izmailova…
Katerina is unhappily married into a family of rich land and serf owners. She’s bored and discontent, closer to the indentured servants than her own family. When her affair with the serf Sergei is discovered the two embark on a series of chilling murders, shamelessly declaring their affair and making a bid for control of the family’s lands.
If the story ended there it might read as a simple tale of revenge, maybe even as a vindication of the two marginalized groups Katerina and Sergei represent. Instead, the tale follows Katerina and Sergei to a bitter and fittingly amoral end, and in place of an easy to follow lesson we got a murky disconcerting tragedy.
“Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk” is gloomy even by 19th century Russian standards and one of the longer stories we’ve chosen for the Saturday Shorts series. Even so, it’s still a compelling one-sitting read and, as long as you don’t need a pick-me-up, it’s a perfect paring for the dark days of winter.
Review by Matthew