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Stalin's Children: Three Generations of Love and War [Hardcover]

Owen Matthews
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

2 Jun 2008
On a midsummer day in 1937, the young Commissar Boris Bibikov kissed his two daughters goodbye and disappeared into the official Packard waiting outside. It was the last time his family ever saw him. Arrested by Stalin's secret police, the loyal Party man confessed to a grotesque series of crimes against the Revolution. His wife, an Enemy of the People by association, was sent to the gulag, leaving the young Lyudmila and Lenina alone to face separation in a world turned suddenly cold. Lyudmila grew up a fighter, and when she fell in love with a tall young foreigner in Moscow at the height of the Cold War, she knew there would be further battles ahead. Naively infatuated with Russia, Mervyn Matthews had embarked on a dangerous flirtation with the KGB. But when finally asked to work for the organisation, he refused. Revenge came quickly: Mervyn was thrown out of the country; Lyudmila lost her job. For six years, stranded on opposite sides of the ideological divide that shaped their generation, they kept their love alive in a daily stream of letters - some anguished, some funny, but all suffused with a hope that they would eventually be reunited. Decades later, Owen Matthews pieces together his grandfather's passage through the harrowing world of Stalin's purges, and tells the story of his parents' Cold War love affair through their letters and memories. Interspersed with the story of his family is his own journey as a young reporter in nineties Moscow. This is a raw, vivid memoir about a young man's struggle to understand his parents' lives and the strange country which 'made us and freed us and very nearly broke us.'

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (2 Jun 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747591814
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747591818
  • Product Dimensions: 21.4 x 14.6 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 693,416 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Owen Matthews was born in London in 1971. He studied Modern History at Oxford University before beginning his career as a freelance journalist in Bosnia. His stories have appeared in a number of publications including the Spectator, Harper's and Queen and Private Eye, the Times and Sunday Times, the Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph, the Independent and the Independent on Sunday, the Daily Mail and the Times Literary Supplement. From 1995 to 1997 he worked at The Moscow Times, a daily English-language newspaper in Moscow, with forays into Lebanon and Afghanistan.

In 1997 Owen became a correspondent for Newsweek magazine, covering the second Chechen war as well as Russian politics and society. From 2001 to 2006 he was based in Istanbul, covering the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Since 2006 he has combined the jobs of Newsweek's Moscow bureau chief and Istanbul correspondent. Owen is the author of Stalin's Children: Three Generations of Love and War, published by Bloomsbury in June 2008, which was shortlisted for that year's Guardian First Books Award and the Orwell Prize for Political Writing, and listed among the Books of the Year by the Sunday Times, Sunday Telegraph and the Spectator. Stalin's Children has been translated into twenty languages, and the French edition (Les Enfants de Staline, Belfond, 2009) was shortlisted for the Prix Medicis Etranger 2009 and the Grand Prix des Lectrices d'Elle 2010.

Product Description


"Written with poise and an awareness of the ability of language to dissect feeling, 'Stalin's Children' realises compellingly the dramatic and emotional potential of its material." -- Daily Telegraph

Few books say so much about Russia then and now, and its effect on those it touches. -- Ecomonist

Most writers would do something quite unspeakable to inherit the kind of material Owen Matthews has here. But there is no begrudging him. In Stalin's Children he has written a superb chronicle of the 20th-century Soviet Union, seen through the eyes of his parents and grandparents: a Russian Wild Swans... Some of the stories will stay with me forever. -- Sunday Times

Reconstruction of one's parents' love story is rare enough undertaking; success to this extent puts Owen Matthews's family biography into a special category. Remarkable... not only does Owen Matthews write with extraordinary vividness... but his technique is more that of a novelist than a journalist - and a master craftsman at that. -- Spectator

This fascinating book is not a footnote to Soviet history: it is Soviet history, one of the millions of private tales of evil and astonishing endurance that make up the awful whole. -- Andrew Miller, The Observer

This is one of the most fascinating family memoirs of recent times. Few people could write as Owen Matthews does about his parents' tormented love life and his maternal grandparents' horrific fate with such a blend of affection and critical but unobtrusive objectivity. -- Literary Review

About the Author

Owen Matthews was born in London and spent part of his childhood in America. He studied Modern History at Oxford University before beginning his career as a journalist in Bosnia. In 1995 he accepted a job at The Moscow Times, a daily English-language newspaper. He also freelanced for a number of publications including The Times, the Spectator and the Independent. In 1997, he became a correspondent at Newsweek magazine in Moscow where he covered the second Chechen war, as well as politics and society. Owen was also one of the first journalists to witness the start of the US bombing in the Panjshir Valley in Afghanistan, 2001, and went on to cover the invasion of Iraq, 2003. Owen is currently Newsweek magazine's bureau chief in Moscow, where he lives with his wife and two children.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A personal page-turner on Russia's 20th century 29 Jun 2008
Not only does Owen Matthews succeed in striking a tricky balance between history and unsentimental memoir, but in the process he writes a real page-turner. It's a romantic and moving political and personal story that is very well told. This ought to be on the 'books of the year' lists.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A piece of Russian soul 16 Jun 2008
By Doushka
In writing the story of three generations of his family the author shares a piece of his soul with the readers, the love story of his parents Mila and Mervyn, victims of 1960s Anglo-Soviet relations. This is a wonderful, deeply romantic book.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Poignant and acute 13 Sep 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a fine book, capturing the terror, banality and pathos of the Stalinist era. It also manages to apprehend something of the surreal atmosphere of post-Soviet Russia. All of it conveyed in elegant prose and a complicated narrative about the lives of three generations that Owen manages to synchronise deftly. But most of all, one comes away with a sense of the immense endurance of a people, their courage and dignity as well as their determination to value books and ideas under difficult circumstances. The extraordinary lives of Matthew Owen's Russian mother and her family leave one awestruck.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Stalins Children 18 Oct 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A very powerful and compelling read. My wife read it straight through and was clearly moved by the experiences of the family during the cold war.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Stalins Children 12 April 2010
A book which illustrates how extraordinary the lives are of people amongst us and a very good read.
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