K. Overman-Edmiston, the author of The Avenue of Eternal Tranquillity writes about the genesis of her novel.
I love to travel, and I often use experiences from my travels in my writing. For example, when flying from Vienna to Moscow a few years ago, I had a bout of food poisoning so, on reaching the hotel in Moscow, I was in bed for about 36 hours. I awoke in the wee hours on Boxing Day and went to the window, it was still dark outside. Down in the snow in the car park between the hotel and River Moskva a man had got out of his car, taken off his hat and coat and laid down in the snow. He looked as though he had simply gone to sleep, curled on his side. The police came, took notes, and left the body under a piece of matting.
Some time later I boarded the trans-Siberian train for Siberia and China, but I couldn’t get the image of the man in the snow out of my mind. Why would a person do such a thing? He would have known that taking off his warm clothes and choosing to lie down in the snow in such ferociously low temperatures would mean certain death. Oddly enough, he looked quite peaceful and resigned to his action.
The Avenue of Eternal Tranquillity is a sort of fictional history leading up to that moment. An attempt at an explanation as to why someone would choose to die and why, perhaps, they would seem so comfortable in making such a choice.
I know it sounds a bit depressing, but it’s actually a very uplifting story! We are a culture, I think, that deals badly with death, particularly if the event is unexpected. I wanted to write a story that would provide some comfort or reassurance to those who have lost someone they love. I hope this book is reassuring, especially for those who have quieter voices.
The intertwining story involves a couple travelling the trans-Siberian from Beijing to Moscow in the present day – full of fascinating insights for those who love to travel! The other couple, Pyotr and Yuliya, live in Moscow in the 1960s. The couples’ stories plait throughout the novel but come together at the novel’s end.
The landscapes traversed really provide a backdrop to the more important internal landscapes of each of the characters. The book is simply an ode to tenderness, to the kindness people can offer to one another. Kindnesses that seem small but really are the essence of being alive; living a full life.
The Avenue of Eternal Tranquillity by K Overman-Edmiston
In the arctic conditions of a Moscow winter, a man drives to the car park of a city hotel. He takes off his hat and coat, lies down in the snow, goes to sleep, and dies. Why? From a window high up in the Hotel Rossiya, a couple looks down upon the figure lying in the snow.
Hannah and Luke have just arrived in Moscow after travelling across Mongolia and Siberia. They had not seen the Russian leave his car, but they did see the police arrive, take notes, cover the body with a piece of matting, and then leave. This book tells the story of Pyotr and Yuliya, living in the Soviet Union of the 1960s. Their tale is interwoven with that of Luke and Hannah travelling the trans-Siberian railway from Beijing to Moscow in the early years of the new millennium. Their paths collide during the festive season in Moscow, 2002.
Set in Russia and China, this story traces two deeply founded relationships that provide insights into love’s gentle and tenuous beginnings to its richness, rewards, complexities, and potential for tragedy.
Keep a look out for The Avenue of Eternal Tranquillity in next month’s giveaway.