Since I studied Soviet Russia as part of my advanced higher history over 10 years ago I have had a fascination with Russia in the post- Tsarist era. This book was a new departure for me as it was fiction rather than fact but from the first turn of the page I was hooked.
The author, Simon Sebag Montefiore, is one of my favourite writers and his well-researched histories have earned him plaudits galore. More and more historians are using their knowledge to construct novels – some successfully and some not so. Montefiore has definitely made the successful transition from fact to fiction in this book.
The story centres on the children of leaders of the Stalinist regime in 1945 Moscow and a scandal they become embroiled in at the VE day parade. The book is one of those which starts with the punchline and then works forward towards it. The plethora of characters that interweave in this complex tale of deception and doctrine creates an absorbing book which draws you in with every twist and turn of the plot.
Its one drawback is perhaps the sheer amount of characters who although well developed and rounded take a bit of time to prise apart. It is helpful, therefore, to flick back and forth to the character descriptions at the beginning until you find your bearings.
I would recommend this book heartily – it does not require a prior in-depth knowledge of the Stalinist regime and is a good read for those who like mystery or historical fiction. Montefiore’s other novel Shasenka is now definitely on wish list.