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Customer Review

5.0 out of 5 stars Such a well written novel, clever and compelling!, 2 Jan. 2011
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This review is from: Sashenka (Paperback)
Sashenka, I couldn't have left it in the bookstore after having read the worldwide known Sebag Montefiore's Russian history books. I knew it, it was a good choice. Sebag Montefiore is an accomplished historian and turns out to be also a talented novelist.
Sashenka is a beautiful historical novel with the added value of having an absolutely faithful historical background, which it makes it also a pleasant learning instrument.
It is the story of a woman, Sashenka, in Russia before and after the revolution.
The plot is divided in three parts.
Sashenka as a young girl, Sashenka as an important official figure in Stalin's regime, and the archival research of a young woman in contemporary Russia.
In this way, some passages are omitted, making the developing of the story more agile, and creating a growing sense of suspense between the second and third part.
One. Sashenka was born from a nouveau riche family. The household situation is discomforting and makes the young girl feel uneasy. Through an uncle, she learns about the ferment of the revolution and immaturely but passionately she throws herself into the cause.
Two. We find her married to an important man of Stalin's regime and she herself occupies a relevant political role. Sashenka has children and a serene life. The perfect high rank Bolshevik family. One day she does something unexpected. And everything takes a dramatic turn.
Three. We are in contemporary Russia, a student is asked to make some archival researches on Sashenka.
Since the beginning, the reader can perceive some sort of anxiety, like a crescendo. Then facts lead to a dramatic blast, followed by the silence and slowly a new life, and new windows are opened on the past. Some of those talk about love, devotion, and passion, some others about death, sacrifice, and fear.
In Sashenka, Sebag Montefiore develops the events on the setting of an accurate historical background. At the beginning, it is easy to grasp the flavor of the preparation ground for the revolution thanks to the vivid descriptions of places, characters who certainly lived at the time, codes, methods, clothes, architecture, taverns, smell and noises.
And then the regime, the rigid system, the power, the hierarchy, the relationships among the men around Stalin, the reverence, the dread, and also the prisons, the tortures, and the bureaucracy. The intangible is given in a such dramatic way, that it comes natural to feel the terror of those years in all its aspects.
Particularly fascinating (and philologically reassuring) is the mingling of fictional characters with historical ones. There is an episode in which Stalin himself visits Sashenka's house.
The plot is intriguing, complex and smooth, the dialogues are well orchestrated, the shifting of the scenes has a good rhythm, the visual descriptions are precious, the characters' psychological introspection is articulated.
Wonderful compelling story, the story of a clever woman, sweet mother of two beloved children who lived in her beloved Russia, in one of the most dramatic changes in its history.
It could be a great subject for a movie.
Sashenka, the woman, followed me for days after I finished this Sebag Montefiore's novel.
It made my cry.
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Location: New York, NY

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