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Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 58.
- Review Date: 2009-03-02
- Reviewer: Staff
In this sweeping historical novel, a Russian girl from a wealthy Jewish family turns revolutionary and marries a high-level Bolshevik. She embarks on a disastrous affair years later that endangers her two children and twists her from a loyal Communist into yet another of Stalin’s victims. The history and characters are fascinating, but the narration is marred by Anne Flosnik’s flat characterization and implausible Russian accent, which evokes a bad Bela Lugosi imitation. Furthermore, her self-conscious diction prevents listeners from relaxing into the flow of the story. A Simon & Schuster hardcover (Reviews, Sept. 15). (Jan.)
Sashenka, skillfully performed by Josephine Bailey, is historian Simon Montefiore's debut novel, a totally engaging saga that sweeps across 20th-century Russia. At its center is Sashenka, an intense, gray-eyed, 16-year-old student at the posh Smolny Institute in St. Petersburg and only daughter of a rich Jewish banker. Instead of dreaming about boys, she dreams of the coming Bolshevik revolution, of comrade Lenin and of doing her all for the Party. With an historian's depth of knowledge and a novelist's sense of place, plot and personality, Montefiore moves from the charged early days of the Revolution to 1939, when a mere slip of the tongue could mean a trip to the gulag or the dreaded "seven grams of lead." A dedicated, disciplined Bolshevik to her fingertips, married to a Cheka commissar, mother of two adorable children, Sashenka took Stalin's excesses and the reign of terror in stride, never imagining she could be the victim of betrayal and denunciation, that a wild reversal of fortune could destroy her and her family. Fast-forward to 1994 and we're looking back, as a history student, hired by a present-day oligarch to find his mother's real parents, ekes out the truth about Sashenka's fate. Deeply affecting.