From Publishers Weekly
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.)
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An adolescent schoolgirl from a privileged family of Jewish lineage, whose ideas of politics and revolution come from novels, Sashenka Zeitlin comes face-to-face with reality when she is arrested by czarist secret police in 1916 St. Petersburg. Undeterred by this and encouraged by her uncle, an associate of Lenin, she throws herself into the Bolshevik movement, becoming a double agent and hastening the dawn of the Soviet Union. By 1939, Sashenka has become a mother, married to a Communist official. Living in relative ease, they host parties of such repute that even Stalin attends. Despite the couple’s surviving unscathed Stalin’s purges of 1937 and 1938, the revolution’s need to devour its children eventually overtakes even true believers made especially vulnerable by indiscreet love affairs. In 1994 the Soviet Union has collapsed, but Sashenka’s legacy cannot so easily be put to rest. Montefiore’s command of Russian history makes the novel’s details especially vibrant. --Mark Knoblauch
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