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Sashenka: A Novel Audio CD – Audiobook, CD, Unabridged
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From Publishers Weekly
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Top Customer Reviews
This is what I thought before opening the book. I do not quite like historical novels in the first place. And after reading all range of Russian authors from Tolstoy to Shalamov I thought to have a right to be skeptical.
I was wrong.
Montefiore's book sucked me in like a giant black hole. Frankly, I have never read any "foreign" book about Russia that is so true in events, details, characters and language.
When I read the first chapter I was almost shocked by incredible style of Simon's writing. I could not believe I was reading an *English* text. I do not understand the magic, I do not know how it is done, but if you want to get an impression how original Tolstoy's text would *feel* in Russian - just read the first chapter of Sashenka.
Interestingly, Simon keep changing the writing style as story progress in time eventually making it more and more "soviet", but original chapter's style is unbeatable.
Another moment I want to mention - Simon mixes real and fictional heroes in this novel. Some heroes are 100% real and under their real names, some others (like Sashenka herself) are mix of several people, many of which are easily recognizable if you know this historical period and finally some characters are completely fictional. I ended up Googling some of fictional characters to make sure they were fictional, because Simon made them so incredibly realistic.
And, of course not only characters are alive, the every page of the book is. Simon managed to take tons of dusty yellow pages from almost (and up to date) inaccessible KGB archives and resurrected them to tell us their stories. Well, this is all merged into one story, the story that is just not possible to characterize in a short review. Just read the book, it's brilliant.
My summaries of the sections are deliberately vague, as I think it's essential to be in the dark about where the story is going for best enjoyment. All three of the parts are very nicely tied in with each other by the end of the novel.
Part I: 1916--Sashenka Zeitlin is a willful and reckless 16-year-old. Her father is wealthy and influential, so the family is allowed to live in St. Petersburg rather than in the Pale of Settlement with the other Jews. Sashenka rejects the excesses and debauchery of her Tsarist parents and becomes a Bolshevik spy.
Part II: 1939 Moscow--Sashenka is now married to a Party leader and has two small children. She has remained a loyal Party member for over 20 years and still supports Stalin and the Soviet system. Just when they think the purging and "The Terror" is over, the arrests and disappearances start up again. This time, Sashenka fears that she and her husband may be targeted.
Part III: 1994 Moscow and London--Katinka, a young historian, is hired in London by Roza Getman to find out what happened to Roza's family in Russia during the years of Stalin's Terror. In the course of her research, Katinka stumbles upon Sashenka's story. This part of the book was what sealed the deal for me on the five-star rating. I could not stop reading. It's a great mystery with the clock running down and old-timers trying to keep their secrets safe.
Overall very well written and engaging.Read more ›
Still, this novel, as the author himself notes in his conclusion/afterword, admirably fulfills his goal of making the horrors of the Stalinist Terror live for the contemporary reader, particularly those who aren't likely to pick up Sebag Montefiore's superb books about Stalin himself, Young Stalin or Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar. For those who have read the superb book about the impact of these years on ordinary Soviet citizens, The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin's Russia, this provides a fictional counterpart, one where imagination takes over and the reader following Sebag Montefiore's plot can transport themselves into the world his lead character, Sashenka, inhabited. Fortunately the reader, unlike Sashenka, can also escape this closed and paranoid world.
Sebag Montefiore's strength is portraying that world, from the corrupt decadence of the final years of Tsarist rule (which takes the reader from palaces to prisons) and the claustrophobic paranoia of the 1930s, which Sashenka herself displays almost without realizing it when she discovers that Stalin and his leaders, including Lavrenti Beria, have honored her dacha with a visit on the eve of May Day -- a visit that, on the surface a triumph, will hold unexpected and disastrous consequences for Sashenka and everyone around her.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Stalin holds a fascination for me, as do Mao, Hitler etc. I dislike them intensly but read about them to try to see what makes them tick. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Christine Edmunds
thought this was a fantastic read
showed how Stalin was so evil and the character of Sashenka, was so superbly portrayed.
A must read.
Montefiore is one of my favorite writers about new and old Russia. Well written and easy to read.Published 3 months ago by beverly miller
Very interesting as not only a novel but very well referenced to history.Published 3 months ago by Pauline W
Interesting characters and plot. I learned a lot about the Russian Revolution and the differing groups that were struggling to get out of oppression and to build a country that... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Nancy
Absolutely wonderful book, difficult to put it away - and impossible to ever forget. Did not know the auther before, but am now going to plough my way through his work. Read morePublished 4 months ago by sandra vinding
Great novel. Very intriguing story of Russia in the communist era.Published 5 months ago by Phillip A. Dudas