One Night in Winter (Hardcover)
Sues's Staff Pick (June 2014): Those of us of a certain age remember well the Cold War that sparked the political paranoia surrounding our childhoods. Simon Sebag Montefiore’s book One Night in Winter is a work of historic fiction from the years preceding most of our memories—when Stalin was reveling in his victory over Hitler while gathering members of his politburo. The author uses a group of children from that era to weave his story, specifically the children of elite government leaders who are being educated in the most exclusive school in Moscow.
Two students die. We are led to question whether this was a horrible accident, suicide, or murder. The story leads the reader through the investigation. The intrigue encompasses the Soviet police, Stalin, and his enforcers, and the parents of these children, who imagined themselves as steadfast partisans. The powerful parents and children quickly realize that they are subject to interrogations, arrests, and tests of allegiance. They are even positioned against each other. That is the sharp story that pulls you in and constantly forward through the conclusion of the book.
As an added bonus, the author, a Russian historian, includes an afterword that explains the truthful and fictional aspects of the story. I love that!— From Sue's Picks
Inspired by a true story, prize-winning historian and acclaimed novelist Simon Sebag Montefiore explores the consequences of forbidden love in this heartbreaking epic of marriage, childhood, danger, and betrayal that unfolds in Stalin's Moscow during the bleak days after World War II.
As Moscow celebrates the motherland's glorious victory over the Nazis, shots ring out on the crowded streets. On a nearby bridge, a teenage boy and girl--dressed in traditional nineteenth-century costumes--lie dead. But this is no ordinary tragedy, because these are no ordinary teenagers. As the son and daughter of high-ranking Soviet officials, they attend the most elite school in Moscow. Was it an accident, or murder? Is it a conspiracy against Stalin, or one of his own terrifying intrigues?
On Stalin's instructions, a ruthless investigation begins into what becomes known as the Children's Case. Youth across the city are arrested and forced to testify against their friends and their parents. As families are ripped apart, all kinds of secrets come spilling out. Trapped at the center of this witch-hunt are two pairs of illicit lovers, who learn that matters of the heart exact a terrible price. By turns a darkly sophisticated political thriller, a rich historical saga, and a deeply human love story, Montefiore's masterful novel powerfully portrays the terror and drama of Stalin's Russia.