In the bestselling tradition of Doctor Zhivago and Sophie's Choice, a sweeping epic of Russia from the last days of the Tsars to today's age of oligarchs -- by the prizewinning author of Young Stalin.
Winter 1916: St. Petersburg, Russia, is on the brink of revolution. Outside the Smolny Institute for Noble Girls, an English governess is waiting for her young charge to be released from school. But so are the Tsar's secret police...
Beautiful and headstrong, Sashenka Zeitlin is just sixteen. As her mother parties with Rasputin and their dissolute friends, Sashenka slips into the frozen night to play her part in a dangerous game of conspiracy and seduction.
Twenty years on, Sashenka is married to a powerful, rising Red leader with whom she has two children. Around her people are disappearing, while in the secret world of the elite her own family is safe. But she's about to embark on a forbidden love affair that will have devastating consequences.
Sashenka's story lies hidden for half a century, until a young historian goes deep into Stalin's private archives and uncovers a heartbreaking tale of betrayal and redemption, savage cruelty and unexpected heroism -- and one woman forced to make an unbearable choice.
The shy northern sun had already set by teatime when three of the Tsar's gendarmes took up positions at the gates of the Smolny Institute for Noble Girls. The end of term at the finest girls' boarding school in St. Petersburg was no place for policemen but there they were, unmistakable in their smart navy-blue tunics with white trimming, shiny sabers, and lambskin helmets with sultan-spikes. One clicked his fingers impatiently, another opened and closed the leather holster of his Mauser revolver and the third stood stolidly, legs wide, with his thumbs stuck into his belt. Behind them waited a traffic jam of horse-drawn sleighs, emblazoned gold and crimson with family crests, and a couple of gleaming limousines. The slow, slanting snowfall was visible only in the flickering halo of streetlights and the amber lamps of touring cars.
It was the third winter of the Great War and it seemed the darkest and the longest so far. Through the black gates, down the paved avenue, the ...
A remarkable novel with an unforgettable protagonist. I found myself haunted by this book for quite some time after I turned the final page. Historian Montefiore shows much promise as a novelist, particularly if he can avoid the banalities pervading the early sections of this, his first fictional attempt. This book is sure to please readers interested in Russia's recent history.
(Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).
Full Review (691 words).
A Short Biography of Rasputin
Rasputin's role within St. Petersburg's high society is detailed throughout the first section of Sashenka.
Gregori Yefimovich Rasputin was born in a small village in Siberia in 1864 or 1865. At the age of 18 he was sent to a monastery, possibly as a penance for a minor theft. He returned a changed man, and embarked on the life of a religious mystic. He married in 1889 and had three children. In 1901 he started traveling, spending time in Greece and Jerusalem, eventually settling in St. Petersburg in 1903 as a self-proclaimed holy man, healer and prophet.
He was initially well-received by the Russian Orthodox Church in St Petersburg. He was charismatic, with a talent for calming people and ...
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