A young, lonely man strolls the streets of St. Petersburg contemplating his solitude when he happens upon a young woman in tears. While escorting her home, the two strike up a conversation and soon become friends, meeting up at night to share their stories. When the young woman, Nastenka, explains that she was crying because she had been waiting for her fiancé who promised he would be back to marry her, the young man, despite his growing feelings toward her, promises to help her locate her beloved. (from Goodreads)
I really enjoyed the two stories/novellas that were compiled in this little book, although they couldn’t be more different.
The first one, giving its title to the book, was imbued with a rather very contagious melancholy. One couldn’t help but feel pity for the young man in his overwhelming loneliness, although at times he said things that in our day and age would raise a thousand red flags (things such us we women shouldn’t refuse the conversation of such a shy and helpless but totally honorable man as him… ugh). Also, the madly-in-love-at-first-sight trope is as always no so believable, so even though the story leads you to want the two characters to end up together, I was glad to see that the young woman had more sense in her and stick to her original plan (although it still wasn’t great, in my opinion, but oh well)
The second story, “A Disgraceful Affair” (or also, according to Wikipedia: “A Nasty Story”, “A Most Unfortunate Incident” or”An Unpleasant Predicament”) was much more fun in general, although the amounts of second-hand embarrassment for the character were off the charts. A sort of high-rank man, after a sort of dinner party with a couple of colleagues and with not-a-few drinks on him, ended up crashing the wedding of one of his subordinates. What in his mind was going to be an event that would remain fondly in the memory of said subordinate and his family as the day in which such a high-rank man did them the honors of his remarkable presence, ended up being a trainwreck of embarrassment and foolishness, where he became the but of the joke and ruined the entire night of the poor groom, as we later find out. Reading this was both a very amusing and awkward experience.