Synopses & Reviews
In the bestselling tradition of Doctor Zhivago
and Sophie's Choice,
a sweeping epic of Russia from the last days of the Tsars to today's age of oligarchs by the prizewinning author of Young Stalin
Winter 1916: St. Petersburg, Russia, is on the brink of revolution. Outside the Smolny Institute for Noble Girls, an English governess is waiting for her young charge to be released from school. But so are the Tsar's secret police...
Beautiful and headstrong, Sashenka Zeitlin is just sixteen. As her mother parties with Rasputin and their dissolute friends, Sashenka slips into the frozen night to play her part in a dangerous game of conspiracy and seduction.
Twenty years on, Sashenka is married to a powerful, rising Red leader with whom she has two children. Around her people are disappearing, while in the secret world of the elite her own family is safe. But she's about to embark on a forbidden love affair that will have devastating consequences.
Sashenka's story lies hidden for half a century, until a young historian goes deep into Stalin's private archives and uncovers a heartbreaking tale of betrayal and redemption, savage cruelty and unexpected heroism and one woman forced to make an unbearable choice.
"Lauded historian Montefiore (Young Stalin) ventures successfully into fiction with the epic story of Sashenka Zeitlin, a privileged Russian Jew caught up in the romance of the Russian revolution and then destroyed by the Stalinist secret police. The novel's first section, set in 1916, describes how, under the tutelage of her Bolshevik uncle, Sashenka becomes a nave, idealistic revolutionary charmed by her role as a courier for the underground and rejecting her own bourgeois background. Skip forward to 1939, when Sashenka and her party apparatchik husband are at the zenith of success until Sashenka's affair with a disgraced writer leads to arrests and accusations; in vivid scenes of psychological and physical torture, Sashenka is forced to choose between her family, her lover and her cause. But as this section ends, many questions remain, and it is up to historian Katinka Vinsky in 1994 to find the answers to what really happened to Sashenka and her family. Montefiore's prose is unexciting, but the tale is thick and complex, and the characters' lives take on a palpable urgency against a wonderfully realized backdrop. Readers with an interest in Russian history will particularly delight in Sashenka's story." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Montefiore's Sashenka shows us that the Soviet interlude in Russia's blood-spattered history still makes for a gripping read in the 21st century. Highly recommended." Library Journal
"Montefiore's command of Russian history makes the novels details especially vibrant." Booklist
"[An] intriguing portrait of the people who brought down the czars and went on to serve the Soviet state during Stalinism." New York Times
"For a first novel, it is an impressively well-constructed and imagined narrative." Dallas Morning News
"As a tale of the Soviet dream turned nightmare, Sashenka is unforgettable, but its ambitions and rewards are even greater." Wall Street Journal
"[S]uccessfully recreates a Russia about which we still have much to learn, even as it tells a story too near the truth to be forgotten anytime soon." Christian Science Monitor
"Montefiore has spent years in Russia...and his deep knowledge of the country and its history is evident, especially so in his depictions of Stalin's regime." Seattle Times
From the bestselling author of Young Stalin comes a sweeping novel of Russia in the early 20th century a captivating tale of love, politics, family, and survival.
About the Author
Simon Sebag Montefiore is a historian of Russia and author of Potemkin: Catherine the Great's Imperial Partner; Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar; and the bestselling Young Stalin, awarded the 2007 Costa Biography Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography. Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, Montefiore lives in London with his wife, the novelist Santa Montefiore, and their two children.