45 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love and suspect in Stalin's Russia
By Simon Sebag Montefiore the eminent Stalin's biographer (Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar and Young Stalin), an historical novel set in 1945 Russia. It's a novel about love, family ties, adultery, youth, friendship, fear, hope, deception, psychological violence, secrecy, literature, privilege, Bolshevik faith and its implacable rules.
The author's passionate and...
Published 19 months ago by Lupo
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars How could this end up being boring?
This book was so frustrating. It started with an interesting premise - two teenage children of senior Stalin era officials are shot dead - but rather than following this "mystery" (which falls away quite quickly) it develops into a boring trudge of a child being interviewed by the police and worrying what answers to give, another child being interviewed and worrying about...
Published 11 months ago by Damo Green
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3.0 out of 5 stars I like historical thrillers/novels in general - was a touch disappointed ...,
The book has it's moments, but in my opinion falls short of being gripping enough. I like historical thrillers/novels in general - was a touch disappointed with this one. Partly a case of high expectations from the author after Jerusalem - although the 2 are different genres admittedly.
5.0 out of 5 stars Having read this author's 2 biographies of Stalin this novel is true to life in Russia during that terrible era. I cannot recomm,
This is a tremendous read but to be expected from him. It has kept me on the edge of my seat all the way through.
Having read this author's 2 biographies of Stalin this novel is true to life in Russia during that terrible era.
I cannot recommend this book too highly.
5.0 out of 5 stars loved it, then bought Sashenka,
I bought this title, loved it, then bought Sashenka, thereby reading them out of chronological order, but both are brilliant books. The only problem was that I had such difficulty putting the book down that I finished it too quickly.
11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading - especially if you're going on holiday to Russia.,
One Night in Winter has an intricate, elegant plot, in which Joseph Stalin himself is positioned at the centre of the web. Sebag Montefiore has written a novel which should appeal to both students of history and book clubs alike. Part love story, part thriller, the novel reminded me of both Pasternak and the best of Sebastian Faulkes. Men and women, young and old, should find the One Night in Winter enjoyable.
One Night in Winter is broken up into distinct parts and although the book has, like many a nineteenth century Russian novel, a large cast list the author pulls all his strands together by the end to focus on two (distinctly different) love stories. The book contains some lovely writing and historical insights but the pace seldom flags.
By the end of the book you will start to appreciate the cliché that it's sometimes best to read about certain periods of history, rather than live them. Stalin's Russia was an oppressive, cruel and macabre place, sustained and exacerbated by Stalin himself.
In terms of criticisms not all the characters are as engaging as one another and I wish that the fates of some of the secondary characters would have been fleshed out more at the end, but readers should still be satisfied by this powerful and touching novel. Essential reading - especially if you're going on holiday to Russia.
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant novel-it captures the pervading sense of menace and uncertainty ...,
A brilliant novel-it captures the pervading sense of menace and uncertainty which was Russia under Stalin. The characters are vivid and in some cases, brutal-not to mention stupid. The atmosphere is well captured. A worthwhile read.
4.0 out of 5 stars One night in winter,
Interesting setting of the Kremlin elite and wonderful complex characters. Loved the way the author explored love in all the different relationships. Wish he had not tied up every little story line so neatly at the end of the novel!
7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Important Novel,
How can I justify the title I have given to this review? I will try.
We all know, at last, that Stalin was as evil as Hitler. The days of fellow travellers are over. No serious western politician any longer claims that the Soviet Union was a good thing. The people of Islington and Hampstead have given up trying to convince us that Communist Russia was a sort of heaven on earth. Indeed, most of them now accept that Joseph Stalin was a rather bad thing.
But, and this is the point, those inhabitants of North London do tend, still, to think Stalin was just a misguided chap who was striving to do the best he could for his fellow countrymen, but got it wrong. The hundreds of thousands of decent Russians who died as a result of Stalin's policies continue to be conveniently forgotten. British schoolchildren are now only taught about one period of history. They are told, over and over again, about the evils of Nazi Germany (and they certainly should be told that). But they are not told about the man who killed even more people than Hitler did. Stalin is a closed book to them.
The reason One Night In Winter is an important novel is that it spells out, by using a human story, why Stalin's Russia was horribly evil.
The story is bleak, at least for the first half of the book. Many will find it difficult to persevere, to go on to the end and see that this is a delightful love story with some light at the end of the tunnel. On page after page we are subjected to grotesque accounts of the depravities of Stalin's regime. Children, one as young as six, are imprisoned and beaten in attempts to get them to confess to being part of a plot to overturn the Politburo. And the awful thing is that, though fiction, the story is entirely accurate. The Soviet Union really did behave in that way. The novel is set in 1945. In 1943 the "organs" really did arrest several children and torture them into confessing to conspiracies against the state. Sebag Montefiore has not allowed his imagination to run wild. Everything he describes actually happened in Stalin's Russia. And Stalin himself really did mastermind it all.
But, as I say, all is not doom and gloom. If you are strong enough to get through the first half of the book you will discover a beautiful love story developing. Despite all that the state does to destroy the lives of our heroes, love (as Pushkin would have expected) wins through.
Maybe I should have awarded the novel five, rather than four, stars. But I think I was right. Sebag Montefiore is too much of a historian and not enough of a novelist. He doesn't allow any humour (or hardly any) into the first two or three hundred pages. He is too determined, and one can understand the reasons, to tell us how appalling Stalin's regime was. As a result the reader is left in a state of constant depression. Perhaps, if he had read Ben Elton's wonderful novel about a Jewish family in Germany in the 1930s ([ASIN:0552775312 Two Brothers]], he could have discovered how humour can make a novel about tragic events more bearable.
But that is not a major criticism. I have read one or two reviews here which claim that Sebag Montefiore's characters are not realistic. They are quite wrong. I can understand why the reviewers might have been depressed by the book, but it is a travesty to say that the characters are not entirely believable.
I have no hesitation is advising you to buy and read this book. You can only benefit from doing so.
5.0 out of 5 stars More please,
Having read Sashenka I was delighted to find this book in the library. It is a tremendous story, gripping from start to finish, and I really hope Simon writes another Russian epic soon.
4.0 out of 5 stars For those who love Russian history,
A historical novel set in WW2 - early cold war, this is a romantic historical novel set around some of the most notorious characters in the Politburo.
An enjoyable read!
3.0 out of 5 stars easy read.,
Interesting insight into a repressive culture. Seems a bit "teenager-ish" at the start but turns into a darker, serious tale, which is a very enjoyable, easy read.
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One Night in Winter by Simon Sebag Montefiore (Hardcover - 5 Sept. 2013)