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Lina and Serge: The Love and Wars of Lina Prokofiev Hardcover – 19 Mar 2013

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Hardcover, 19 Mar 2013

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--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin (19 Mar 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547391315
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547391311
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 15.5 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,111,605 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Unforgettable as a testimony of personal devotion" (John Carey Sunday Times)

"Morrison tells a good story, without excess or indulgence, and with touching empathy for his heroine" (Guardian)

"Immensely readable and entertaining" (Amanda Foreman New Statesman)

"Morrison writes excellently... As much a story of personal tragedy and disappointment as it is a compelling study of how art and tyranny interact" (Stuart Kelly Scotsman)

"Meticulously researched" (Richard Morrison The Times)

"Morrison, who had access to the family and significant archival collections, has produced a gripping story of a young woman’s rise into the highest social and musical circles, her marriage to Prokofiev (whose principal affection was for his music, not his family), and their globe-trotting tours and swelling celebrity. But as the Stalin-led Soviet Union commenced its multiple atrocities and outrages, the Prokofievs’ world shrank, their travels were limited and their futures were tightly circumscribed. Research, compassion and outrage combine in a story both riveting and wrenching." (Kirkus Reviews)


In the hagiographic hall of fame that is the Russian artist’s wife — Sophia Tolstoy, Anna Dostoevsky, Nadezhda Mandelstam, all muses who stood watch while their men created things of genius, and then who jealously guarded the legacy — Lina Prokofiev is odd woman out. Her story almost cannot be believed, until Simon Morrison gained access to the documents (and the family’s trust) in order to tell it. Biography does not get more important than this.

" (Caryl Emerson) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

The dramatic untold story of Lina and Serge Prokofiev: a tale of a doomed love and a shattering portrait of an artist --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By P. G. James on 19 Nov 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Let's get one thing clear about this book, it's just as much about Sergei Prokofiev as it is about Lina and while Simon Morrison may be a respected expert on Prokofiev the composer, he's certainly no authority on Prokofiev the man. And how can he be with the composer having died years before Mr. Morrison was even born? Virtually from the first page the author's stance on the composer is ludicrously moralistic and judgmental, and it's almost as if Prokofiev's personal reputation is in the dock and Morrison is the council for the prosecution. While it's difficult to condone the composer for walking out on Lina, ultimately, as is the case with any failed marriage only the two people involved really know the full story and the reasons for that failure. Marital collapses are a fact of life as is the inevitability that one or the other or both will find another partner and we can only assume that the calm, unconditional love and companionship he must have found with Mira Mendelson had long ceased to be forthcoming from Lina. No longer being regarded as the famous composer's wife meant the loss of many privileges and being regarded as a foreign national (she was half Spanish) wouldn't have helped her cause with the Soviet authorities. However, that the separation would lead seven years later to Lina`s arrest for trumped up charges of espionage and eight years of incarceration was a tragedy neither of them could have predicted. That she never publicly condemned Prokofiev and worked tirelessly to promote his music in the years up to her death in 1989 says more about her than Simon Morrison manages in more than 300 pages of this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Douglas May on 8 May 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The problem with this book is that it followed on from the third volume of the Prokofiev Diaries, which covered a lot of the ground covered by its first half The diaries are so well written that the first half of the book somewhat paled by comparison. It did however confirm the suspicion that Prokofiev was a reluctant bridegroom and hopelessly naive about the Soviets with dreadful consequences for him and his wife on their return to Russia. The second part of the book I found much more fascinating. The composers infidelity, the domestic struggles Lina had in bringing up the children, her incautious contacts with foreigners and her inability to play the system to ensure her safety offer good insights into the oppression in Stalinist Russia. Her incarceration and ill treatment gave her an extraordinary courage and determination to survive. That part of the story is tellingly told and well worth narrating. The composer meantime comes out quite badly for he seems very self centred,though quite terrified. A good read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mondoro TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 6 Aug 2013
Format: Hardcover
This biography of Sergei Prokofiev's first wife, the glamorous and cosmopolitan Lina, tells the tragic story of yet another person who was deluded by Stalin's Soviet Union, and fell from the heights of lauded artist from abroad to the depths to being condemned as 'an enemy of the people', sentenced to the gulags for a twenty-year period. Her fate was even more tragic when one considers that the return was clearly desired much more by her husband than herself, and underlined when Sergei betrayed her with another, younger, woman in the early stages of the War. Yes, Lina was politically naive, but her husband's naivete, was more reprehensible, sustained by the belief that his international reputation made him untouchable. The post-war official attacks on Prokofiev and other leading composers for 'formalism' showed all too clearly that this was an illusion also. Also, in her defence, it should be noted that she observed her marriage vows and followed her husband to the Soviet Union, despite some misgivings.

Morrison's book contrasts the whirl and glitter of artistic life in Paris, New York and Milan during the early to mid 1920s with the drab grey uniformity of Stalin's Russia in the 1930s. Lina is steadily worn down as life becomes grimmer during the 'Terror', transformed from the glamorous star of those now far-off days to one out of many thousands of Stalin's work slaves. But like so many others who one might have expected to be the first to crumble, Lina seems to have summoned up reserves of determination to survive both the Lefortovo interrogations and the prison camps themselves.

The author has given us a detailed account of Lina's early career and her fraught relationship with Sergei prior to their marriage.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Douglas Wood on 10 April 2013
Format: Hardcover
Extraordinarily well written, this book shows the late Mr Prokofiev in an unexpectedly appalling light. While basking in the adulation of the world as an admittedly brilliant composer, he left (abandoned) his wife Lina to the tender mercies of the Soviet authorities when their previous tolerance of her ran out in 1938. She worked tirelessly in Moscow for the Russian war effort, while he sheltered in the Caucasus. After the war he returned to Moscow but declined ever to see her or his sons again. In the late 1940s she was arrested, brutally interrogated and sentenced to 20 years in a slave labour camp on the edge of the Arctic circle. She never lost her love for him and wept when she heard of his death (on the same day as Comrade Stalin died in 1953). She left Russia in 1974 and lived, despite all the earlier ill-treatment, in Britain until her death in 1989 at the age of 91.

As the book concedes, she was hardly a faultless character herself, but it shows us that, compared with her husband Serge, she was a veritable saint.

Douglas Wood
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