Book Review: "Russian Ink" by Tatiana De Rosnay

Updated on September 22, 2018

Being an aspiring writer, I have always been deeply interested in how the process of creating a story works. One of my favorite authors wrote once that when writers read a book they like, they usually read it trying to dismantle the story and understand how was it written, to discover the process behind it. I am not sure if that is a general rule, but I am sure that I have been doing that for the past years, trying to find out what works for me.

I have not read any other book by Tatiana de Rosnay, and when I came across “Russian ink” it was merely by chance: The supermarket, a table full of books with a sign announcing two books at the price of one, and the back cover of this one informing me that it was the story of a writer that was rather frustrated with his new novel’s progress. It obviously caught my eye as soon as I saw it, and I still consider it a fortunate inversion.

Nicolas Duhamel is just another regular man. Even less than regular. He is unable to get over his father’s death, he has lived with her mother for a couple of years more than necessary, and his professional career is as unsuccessful as it could be.

All of it changes the day he loses his passport.

Due to the new laws, to renew the passport, Nicolas must prove that he is effectively French, given that both his parents had been born in foreign countries: Her mother in Belgium, and his father in Russia. During a short investigation to come up with the documents to prove that, he runs into his father’s birth certificate, which gives him an unexpected piece of information about his origins.

The impossibility to put all the pieces of the story together pushes Nicolas to do something he has never done before: Write.

Three years after this, his novel, based in his confusing family history, has become a worldwide success. It has not only been translated into many languages but also been adapted into an Oscar-winning film. Money, fame, and recognition have changed Nicolas completely. He is no longer Nicolas Duhamel, the unsuccessful philosophy teacher, but Nicolas Kolt, the celebrity. And he enjoys it very much. But there is a problem: He has not been able to write another word ever since.

In an attempt to find inspiration, the protagonist decides to spend a few days with his new girlfriend, Malvina, in an exclusive Italian hotel. Little does he know that his very much expected vacation is not going to be as quiet as he has thought: Malvina’s constant jealousy, a mysterious guest stalking him, and the sudden arrival of a presumed rich and famous editor will complicate his stay significantly, and force him to deal with all his past mistakes at once.

Why should you be reading it?

I have mentioned before that one of my reasons to enjoy this book so much is the fact that it speaks about how a book is actually written, but I also find the portrayal of the main character, who is an author himself, to be quite interesting.

Here we have a writer whose fame has made him forgot any other thing in his life: He has neglected his family, his friends, and even his own writing in favor of enjoying his moment of glory. In short, we have a writer that does not remember the reasons why he started writing in the first place, which in my opinion is a kind of death for any artist: Forget where you come from and what you have to go through to get where you are.

Nicolas starts to write to deal with memories and feelings that grieve him, to try to build his identity all over again and create possible answers to the questions no one wants to answer about the past. At that moment he did not expect or want the tremendous change the book’s publication is going to bring into his life, he simply wanted a way of expression, and that was in part what causes the book to be that good.

I am not saying that Nicolas is a character easy to sympathize with. He is a chaotic mix of vanity, selfishness, and obsession, full of the whims and tricks of a celebrity, but also strangely observant and imaginative, something that shows up in the way he enjoys watching people and the thoughts these observations evoke in him. De Rosnay’s writing allows us to see the story in stages, through the main character’s memories, keeping the tension and mystery till the very last page.

From this book, I draw a conclusion that is, if not good, at least comforting: That the lack of inspiration can work as an inspiration itself.

I certainly recommend it.

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Literarycreature


      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      No comments yet.


      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

      Show Details
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
      ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)