One Night in Winter: A Novel (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.
“As Stalin twists the Children’s Case to his own ends, the truly magnetic power of One Night in Winter becomes clear. The stirring of our deepest fears and their unexpected resolution—at this, Montefiore is the master.”
“Enthralling…. Mr. Montefiore, an English writer hailed for his works of history and biography, is masterly at sketching scenes (passionate, melancholy or menacing) and limning characters…”
“This finely written chronicle of privileged adults and children afraid for their lives in the treacherous upper reaches of Stalin’s Russia in 1945 is in a league of its own.”
“Compulsively involving. Our fear for the children keeps up turning the pages…. We follow the passions with sympathy... The knot of events tugs at a wide range of emotions rarely experienced outside an intimate tyranny.”
“A gripping thriller about private life and poetic dreams in Stalin’s Russia…. [A] pageturner….Whether its subject is power or love, a darkly enjoyable read
“This tightly written page-turner crackles with authenticity and if you are wiping away a tear by the end it won’t be the icy chill of the Soviet winter that’s to blame.”
“Sebag’s new novel draws in the reader and renders time meaningless. Brilliantly depicted.”
“A novel full of passion, conspiracy, hope, despair, suffering and redemption….One Night in Winter is a gripping read and must surely be one of the best novels of 2013.”
“Addictive, uplifting and terrifying.”
“Sudden, mysterious arrests. Brutal interrogations. The crushing of any hint of antigovernment thought. Constant, stomach-churning terror. Such is the reality of Stalinist Russia evoked so convincingly by Montefiore..… This is a gripping, fast-moving tale of love, fear, sacrifice, and survival.”
“Montefiore…does an excellent job of portraying the paralyzing tension of powerful high-ranking Soviet officials who are powerless to protect their own families…. Highly recommended reading for fans of thrillers, historical fiction, and history.”
“Engrossing…. A mix of lovestory, thriller and historical fiction. Montefiore’s knowledge of the period helps him bring 1945 Moscow to bleak, fascinating life”
“Montefiore writes brilliantly about love, timeless dilemmas, family devotion teenage romance and the grand passion of adultery. Readers of Sebastian Faulks and Hilary Mantel will lap this up.”
“A thrilling work of fiction. Montefiore weaves a tight, satisfying plot, delivering surprises to the last page. Stalin’s chilling charisma is brilliantly realised. The novel’s theme is Love: family love, youthful romance, adulterous passion. One Night in Winter is full of redemptive love and inner freedom.”
“Seriously good fun…the Soviet march on Berlin, nightmarish drinking games at Stalin’s country house, the magnificence of the Bolshoi, interrogations, snow, sex and exile…lust, adultery, and romance. Eminently readable and strangely affecting.”
“Not just a thumpingly good read, but also essentially a story of human fragility and passions.”
“What happens when you cross Donna Tartt’s The Secret History with one of the scariest times in Russian history? You end up with Simon Sebag Montefiore’s One Night in Winter….Based in truth, this novel will keep you biting your nails until the very end.”
“Delicately plotted and buried within a layered, elliptical narrative, One Night in Winter is also a … page-turner which adroitly weaves a huge cast of characters into an arcane world.”
“A compelling read.”
“Gripping and cleverly plotted. Doomed love at the heart of a violent society is the heart of Montefiore’s One Night in Winter.. depicting the Kafkaesque labyrinth into which the victims stumble.”
“A tense historical thriller set in a beautifully crafted world…. Moscow in 1945 comes alive in a wholly believable fashion…. A masterpiece of modern historical fiction.”
“Snuggle up in front of the fire with a glass of red and this captivating story. A dark enigmatic thriller... the way [Montefiore] weaves fiction and history is a true gift.”
“A novel of passion, fear, bravery, suffering and survival…. Its success is helped by Montefiore’s pitch-perfect reconstruction of the golden tightrope that Moscow’s elite walked under Stalin.”
“In this engrossing novel, the setting is the USSR shortly after the end of the Second World War.... As Simon Sebag Montefiore explains in an afterword, this is based on similar real events, and certainly his ease with the setting and certain historical characters is masterly....”
“A kind of Virgin Suicides for the Soviet set, speaking to much that’s dark in the human soul—but to what can redeem it, too.”