Thursday, May 15, 2014

One Night in Winter by Simon Sebag Montefiore

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Simon Sebag Montefiore's latest, One Night in Winter.

It was supposed to be a game. A group of students - almost all children of high ranking members of Russian society - who call themselves the Fatal Romantics. The game was nothing more than a reenactment of Pushkin's duel. But on the evening of the Victory Parade, the day they were set to play, two of them died. Stalin's investigators have been ordered to show no favoritism - not to the children and certainly not to their parents; they are to set an example. And what at first seems like a simple investigation soon becomes a terrifying ordeal.  

I was just a kid in the 80s and not a very observant one when it came to politics, so I have almost no memory of the Cold War itself. But I did grow up in a time when there were many pop culture references to the long running issue. I think it's this that has left me so fascinated by Russian history and historical fiction based around such.

Simon Sebag Montefiore uses real events as the inspiration behind this tale. There was an actual Children's Case, one he discusses in an afterword outlining the history behind the story. The Fatal Romantics and the game are fiction as are many of the characters (a lot of whom are based on real people). The plot is very well built and the story flows immaculately. This is not a heavy, fact-laden historical that reads more like a textbook than fiction. Not at all. This is a captivating and thrilling story that reads fabulously.

I found the kids in particular to be of great interest: Andrei - the son of a State enemy. Andrei's father's crimes aren't detailed to the reader when we meet the son, but his shadow hangs over everything the boy does; Serafima - the daughter of a famous Russian actress (and connected to Montefiore's previous release, Sashenka); George - the son of one of Stalin's closest advisors. George's brother is a pilot whose observances about the planes' tendency to crash aren't welcome in this new Russia... Like Andrei, each of the children lives in their parents' shadows. Of course when those same parents are faced with their children's imprisonment many of them are forced to face hard truths about the government and leader in which they've placed their faith.

Stalinist Russia is a terrifying setting for any story. The kids toe the line because of who their parents are but they are always dangerously close to upsetting the fine balance between what their status allows them and what is really allowed by the government (and by Stalin). And perhaps that's why I found this story and those characters in particular so interesting. They are on the cusp of adulthood but don't truly understand the world around them. Their game - all in fun but with the added allure of the possibility of danger - pushes them over the edge and forces them to face this new horrifying reality.

And there's a mystery of course - what really happened the night of the Victory Parade?

Rating: 4/5

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here.

For more on the author and his work you can find him on the web here. You can also like him on Facebook.

1 comment:

Heather J @ TLC Book Tours said...

"Stalinist Russia is a terrifying setting for any story." I couldn't agree more!

Thanks for being a part of the tour.