Tuesday, May 20, 2014

One Night in Winter by Simon Sebag Montefiore

One Night in Win­ter by Simon Sebag Mon­te­fiore is a his­tor­i­cal fic­tion story tak­ing place in Rus­sia, right after World War II. Mr. Mon­te­fiore is an award win­ning his­to­rian whose book Jerusalem: The Biog­ra­phy was a favorite of some guy named Clin­ton. This is his sec­ond novel. 
Moscow 1945. As Stalin and his courtiers cel­e­brate vic­tory over Hitler, shots ring out. On a nearby bridge, a teenage boy and girl lie dead. But this is no ordi­nary tragedy and these are no ordi­nary teenagers, but the chil­dren of Russia's most impor­tant lead­ers who attend the most exclu­sive school in Moscow. Is it mur­der? A sui­cide pact? Or a con­spir­acy against the state? Directed by Stalin him­self, an inves­ti­ga­tion begins as chil­dren are arrested and forced to tes­tify against their friends — and their par­ents. This ter­ri­fy­ing witch-hunt soon unveils illicit love affairs and fam­ily secrets in a hid­den world where the small­est mis­takes will be pun­ished with death.
One Night in Win­ter by Simon Sebag Mon­te­fiore is an excel­lent novel, enjoy­able, intel­li­gent, easy to read and fac­tual. This is one of those rare books which trans­ports the reader to another time and another place.

The author man­ages to weave his­tor­i­cal char­ac­ters (Stalin, Molo­tov) with fic­tional char­ac­ters flaw­lessly. The feel­ing of gov­ern­ment para­noia is con­veyed with a believable fash­ion which sucks the reader into the days before the Cold War began, when Stalin was rest­ing on his lau­rels from win­ning World War II, but still sus­pi­cious at his peo­ple, and espe­cially his generals.

 The char­ac­ter of Gen­eral Her­cules Sati­nov (what a won­der­ful name), Stalin’s advi­sor and a full mem­ber of the polit­buro was drawn won­der­fully. A man of steel on the out­side, we get to know what his inner tur­moil when being led into a trap by Stalin and falling in love with another woman, some­thing he wouldn’t allow him­self to do.

The cen­ter of the story is a group of kids from var­i­ous classes who get arrested and inter­ro­gated. Most of the kids are chil­dren to upper class par­ents (gen­er­als, politi­cians, enter­tain­ers) and think they’ll be all right. How­ever, Stalin sees this as an oppor­tu­nity to test the loy­alty of the par­ents to the state (mean­ing him­self) and uses them to his benefit.

This novel, by an out­stand­ing his­to­rian, is a grip­ping, intel­li­gent story. The author adds some his­tor­i­cal / facts vs. fic­tion notes at the end which are always wel­comed and, in my eyes, add an extra dimen­sion to any his­tor­i­cal novel. Below is the song Katyusha which is ref­er­enced in the book sev­eral times and, to be hon­est, played in my head most of the time I was read­ing it.


  • 480 pages
  • Pub­lisher: Harper
  • Lan­guage: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062291882
Dis­claimer: I got this book for free.
Article first published as Book Review: One Night in Winter by Simon Sebag Montefiore
on ManOfLaBook.com


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