By (author) Simon Sebag Montefiore

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  • Publisher: Corgi Books
  • Format: Paperback | 640 pages
  • Dimensions: 127mm x 198mm x 39mm | 431g
  • Publication date: 12 March 2009
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 0552154571
  • ISBN 13: 9780552154574
  • Sales rank: 53,309

Product description

Winter, 1916. In St Petersburg, snow is falling in a country on the brink of revolution. Beautiful and headstrong, Sashenka Zeitlin is just sixteen. As her mother parties with Rasputin and her dissolute friends, Sashenka slips into the frozen night to play her role in a dangerous game of conspiracy and seduction. Twenty years on, Sashenka has a powerful husband and two children. Around her people are disappearing but her own family is safe. But she's about to embark on a forbidden love affair which 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 heart-breaking story of passion and betrayal, savage cruelty and unexpected heroism - and one woman forced to make an unbearable choice ...

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Author information

Simon Montefiore's ancestors escaped from the Tsarist Empire at the turn of the century, and sparked his lifelong interest in Russia. As a correspondent in the early 1990s, he covered the wars and turbulence of the fall of the Soviet Union - from Georgia and Chechnya to Moscow and St Petersburg. As a historian, he has spent the last ten years researching the Russian archives. The personal stories he found there and his interviews with families continue to inspire his fiction and non-fiction. Born in 1965, Simon Montefiore lives in London with his wife, the novelist Santa Montefiore, and their two children. For further details about the author and his books, please visit his website:

Review quote

"Gripping from start to finish. The perfect mixture of sweeping history and page-turning storytelling" "Intensely moving, with an unforgettable climax that will touch the hardest heart" "Furiously readable - it's hard to put Sashenka down. The glory and tragedy of her story remains long after the last page is turned" "Intricate, fast moving... by the time I put the book down, long after midnight, I was in tears" THE TIMES "To write a good historical novel you have to recreate that world, both physically and intellectually - and there must be a sense that history is driving the plot forwards. Montefiore succeeds on all counts... The real achievement of this novel is that it describes the profound levels of self-deception required if you wanted to stay alive and be a loyal communist in Stalin's Russia" EVENING STANDARD

Editorial reviews

Inspired by a true story, historian Montefiore (Young Stalin, 2007, etc.) turns novelist to profile a young revolutionary who leads an exemplary Marxist life until a romantic misadventure puts her in Stalin's sights.Sashenka, teenage daughter of a Jewish oil magnate, is exiting an exclusive prep school for daughters of the Russian nobility in 1916 when, instead of being picked up by her father's chauffeur, she's arrested by the Tsarist police, who have gotten wind of her subversive activities as "Comrade Snowfox." After spending the night in jail, she's interrogated by Captain Sagan, who releases her to her family. Uncle Mendel, Sashenka's mentor in the Bolshevik movement, assigns her to turn Sagan into a double agent; Sagan has similar designs upon Sashenka. As these intrigues play out, the Tsar abdicates, and the Revolution ensues. Sagan dies in the rioting, and Sashenka becomes Lenin's secretary. By 1939, she is a model Soviet matron, the wife of Vanya, a rising star in Stalin's NKVD. When Uncle Joe himself crashes a soiree at her dacha, she's intimidated, but relieved that the dictator seems taken with her children, Snowy and Carlo. Despite her communist scruples, Sashenka is drawn to impish younger man Benya Golden, a writer who seduces her with blandishments both verbal and physical. After Vanya bugs the lovers' trysting places, he's arrested by his former employers, taking Sashenka, Mendel and Benya down with him. Under torture, all confess to trumped-up conspiracy charges and disappear into the voracious maw of Stalin's terror machine. Snowy and Carlo survive, spirited under false names to adoptive families by family friend Satinov. In 1994, a Russian oligarch engages fledgling historian Katinka to research the disappearance of his grandparents in 1939. Katinka soon learns that Satinov, now 94, holds the key to the enigma of her client's origins, but Satinov challenges her to arrive at the solution independently - for reasons not clear until the well-tuned surprise ending.Katinka's archival research is as suspenseful as Sashenka's trials in this deft fiction debut. (Kirkus Reviews)