Karolina Pavlova, a Russian poet, was born in 1807. She moved to Dresden in 1858, abandoning her native country "not because of tsarist oppression but because of hostile criticism of her poetry and her personal life." Her art was everything to her. A Double Life was her first and only novel; it was published in 1848 when she was at the height of her fame as a poet and translator.
At 120 pages, A Double Life is not a long novel. Each of the ten chapters follows the same pattern: the first part is written in prose, the last few pages in verse. It centers around Cecily von Lindenborn, just eighteen, and her mother who desires to see her safely married. They live in the aristocratic world of Moscow that Pavlova describes as decorous, indolent and prescribed.
She has two suitors: Dmitry Ivachinsky and Prince Victor. But the mother of her best friend, Olga, wants Prince Victor for her own daughter, so she manipulates Cecily into believing herself in love with Dmitry, then schemes to get the two of them engaged and married. Dmitry, while good looking, is not wealthy, and not entirely sincere in his proclamations of love, but then he, too, is a product of his society. The book ends with their wedding.
A Double Life is a quiet novel of morning visits, evening gatherings, and conversations. It also shows Pavlova's disdain for the aristocratic world in which she lived and their suppression of women, especially young, marriageable ones. I thought it was an interesting read, even though it wasn't very exciting and I never felt a real connection to any of the characters. Pavlova's poetry at the end of each chapter is lyrical, though at times the use of it to show Cecily's inner feelings felt a bit contrived. I didn't dislike this one, but I can't say I liked it either. But I am glad I read it. And it counts for my Classic by a Woman Author for Karen's Back to the Classics Challenge.