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Synopsis

This is a story of a restless and jaded Moscovite setting off to the frontier in search of adventure, self-reflection, and possibly romance. THE COSSACKS succeeds brilliantly in capturing the wistful nature of the young Olenin, whose meandering thoughts about the meaning of life, love, and happiness seem truthful and timeless. Indeed, Olenin could almost be from any part of the world and from any time in history, as he faces the same sort of search for fulfillment that all young people do, maybe especially those from a life of privilege. Very little 'action' in this novel, as even moments of would-be excitement are interwoven with the deeper philosophical meanderings of Tolstoy. There is plenty of suspense however, as a fledgling (but forbidden) love blossoms in Olenin, where Tolstoy succeeds in portraying the tortuous (but wonderful) feelings of uncertainty, desperation, and helplessness in the love-struck young man. Will Maryanka believe and accept Olenin's heartfelt pleas, or will the reality their very different lives strike the relationship down? This story of a life-changing (but not life-threatening) adventure describes a soul-searching period for a very believable character.

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