‘Gooseberries’ by Anton Chekhov

My rating: 4 stars

Continuing on my quest to read more short stories, I picked up a collection by Anton Chekhov. Gooseberries is a Penguin Black Classics edition featuring three short stories whose prose is not particularly astonishing but that succeeds in getting the reader gripped and in aiding to visualise the characters’ actions.

‘The Kiss’ features great social commentary while conveying the tale of a group of officers who are invited to pay a visit to Von Rabbeck at his house, since they are stationed nearby. During the visit, one of the officers, Ryabovich, is mistakenly kissed by a woman he doesn’t know. That occurrence makes him see life in a different light and changes his perception of himself.

Sophia Lvovna, the main character in ‘The Two Volodyas’, also muses on her actions and her life. She has married Colonel Yagich, who is older than her, for money instead of love. Once, while drunk, she contemplates if she could try to love him, but when she begins to sober up she knows that to be impossible, as she loves another, Little Volodya. Although she doesn’t seem to truly believe in God and her actions lead her on another path, she wonders about what she can do to save her soul.

‘Gooseberries’ starts when Ivan Ivanych and Burkin are having a stroll and the falling rain compels them to take shelter at Alyokhin’s house. While there, Ivan tells a story about his brother. His main desire in life was to own a house with gooseberries in the garden. After finishing the tale, he ponders about the meaning of happiness and the role it plays in society.

“It’s obvious that the happy man feels contented only because the unhappy ones bear their burden without saying a word.”

These short stories by the Russian writer Anton Chekhov are on the surface easy reads, but at the same time they are also thought-provoking. In fact, the characters who are at the heart of the stories end up reassessing their lives.


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