Tuesday, April 1, 2014

One Night in Winter by Simon Sebag Montefiore

Back Cover

Inspired by a true story, prize-winning historian and acclaimed novelist Simon Sebag Montefiore explores the consequences of forbidden love in this heartbreaking epic of marriage, childhood, danger, and betrayal that unfolds in Stalin's Moscow during the bleak days after World War II.
As Moscow celebrates the motherland's glorious victory over the Nazis, shots ring out on the crowded streets. On a nearby bridge, a teenage boy and girl—dressed in traditional nineteenth-century costumes—lie dead. But this is no ordinary tragedy, because these are no ordinary teenagers. As the son and daughter of high-ranking Soviet officials, they attend the most elite school in Moscow. Was it an accident, or murder? Is it a conspiracy against Stalin, or one of his own terrifying intrigues?

On Stalin's instructions, a ruthless investigation begins into what becomes known as the Children's Case. Youth across the city are arrested and forced to testify against their friends and their parents. As families are ripped apart, all kinds of secrets come spilling out. Trapped at the center of this witch-hunt are two pairs of illicit lovers, who learn that matters of the heart exact a terrible price. By turns a darkly sophisticated political thriller, a rich historical saga, and a deeply human love story, Montefiore's masterful novel powerfully portrays the terror and drama of Stalin's Russia.

Review by 

Based on actual events, ONE NIGHT IN WINTER by Simon Sebag Montefiore is a novel set in Russia during the dark days after World War II. On the heels of Russia’s victory over the Nazis, there is a special school for the children of Russia’s most elite political, noble, and wealthiest. A small group of these students form a club and they name it the Fatal Romantic Club based on the poetry of Aleksandr Pushkin. The students re-enact a duel from one of the author’s poems, but it goes awry and the duelists are killed. The wording of a handwritten note, misconstrued by the government, results in the arrest of numerous children from the school. What follows is an intense investigation that points to top officials in Stalin’s government, all based upon the words of children who are imprisoned and nearly tortured, who are forced to testify against their own parents and family members.     

The author has done an incredible amount of research, skilfully blending the facts with fiction. The story delves deep into the human spirit, its frailties, and loyalty, its betrayals, and fears, and love of family. The plot unfolds steadily and gains momentum with every page turn. Along the way, readers will be hopeful and disappointed as clue by clue, the story is peeled back to reveal the truth. The easy to read prose packs a punch and keeps potential readers totally engrossed with the fate of the children and their families. This unique story is sure to please and I highly recommend it. It is sure to become a bestseller.

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