‘That night Stasia took an oath, swearing to learn the recipe by heart and destroy the paper. And when she was lying in her bed again, recalling the taste with all her senses, she was sure that this secret recipe could heal wounds, avert catastrophes, and bring people happiness. But she was wrong.’
At the start of the twentieth century, on the edge of the Russian empire, a family prospers. It owes its success to a delicious chocolate recipe, passed down the generations with great solemnity and caution. A caution which is justified: this is a recipe for ecstasy that carries a very bitter aftertaste …
Stasia learns it from her Georgian father and takes it north, following her new husband Simon to his posting at the centre of the Russian Revolution in St Petersburg. But Stasia’s will be but the first of a symphony of grand, but all too often doomed romances that swirl from sweet to sour in this epic tale of the red century.
Tumbling down the years, and across vast expanses of longing and loss, generation after generation of this compelling family hears echoes and sees reflections. Great characters and greater relationships come and go and come again; the world shakes, and shakes some more, and the reader rejoices to have found at last one of those glorious old books in which you can live and learn, be lost and found, and make indelible new friends.
Haratischvili's English-language debut is an exceptional, deeply evocative saga of an elite Georgian family as they endure the 20th century's political upheavals, from before the Bolshevik Revolution through the post-Soviet era. In Tbilisi, Georgia, in 2006, 32-year-old Niza Jashi recounts a staggering series of tales to her 12-year-old niece, Brilka. Niza begins with the story of her great-great-grandfather, a successful chocolate maker who brought fortune to the family with a mythically addictive recipe in the early 20th century, then turns to her great-grandmother Stasia, a promising dancer who married an anti-communist White Guard lieutenant just before the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. Niza tells Brilka about the unconditional love Stasia bestowed on Niza as a child (which was withheld from everyone else in Stasia's family), the death of Stasia's younger half-sister in the 1991 1992 Georgian uprising after the collapse of the U.S.S.R., and Brilka's mother, Daria, Niza's sister, a beautiful young actress until her tragic downfall in the '90s. In heartfelt prose, Haratischvili seamlessly weaves the political upheaval around the characters into the love and loss in their lives. Haratischivili's epic portrait of a close-knit family doubles as a stunning tribute to the power of resilience.