France was to blame. Yes, France was most definitely to blame. He was never like this at home. So thinks an English boy, Cromwell, as he lies on a beach at Biarritz, contrasting the green fields of Scotland and Eton with the state he is now in, perpetually waiting and haunted by the ‘constant premonition of love’. Looking out over the rose-tinged waves of the rushing ocean, he thinks of Tristan and Isolde, and then sees the piercingly beautiful Isolde herself walking towards him. The fact that she’s a teenage Russian girl, Liza, staying with her mother and brother Nikolai near by, doesn’t bother Cromwell a bit. He is immediately infatuated.
Isolde, written in Russian in 1931 and now translated for the first time into English, is a lovely but also ominous, even discordant novel of teenage longing and betrayal.