Friday, 24 October 2014

One Night in Winter by Simon Sebag Montefiore

Set in Moscow in 1945, Stalin is celebrating his victory over Hitler. But when shots ring out two teenagers lie dead on a nearby bridge. They are the offspring of Russia’s highest leaders and no one knows if this is murder, suicide or a conspiracy.

As answers are sought, the friends of the dead youngsters are questioned and a terrifying witch hunt begins. Do the parents of these young people have anything to hide and will they reveal secrets that their parents would prefer remained hidden?

This is the first novel that I have read by Simon Sebag Montefiore and I am fast developing a love affair with the work of the Montefiore family. Back in March I read The Summer House by Santa Montefiore, who is the wife of the author of this book, which I enjoyed every bit as much as I have this one.

It is evident from the scope of this book that Dr Montefiore has researched the background of this book thoroughly. He has written several non-fiction books including Young Stalin and it is obvious from this book that he is steeped in knowledge.

The plot is a labyrinth from start to finish and at no point did the tension ease up. I was gripped from the very beginning, not least because the author writes with such profound intelligence. Every single word was implicit to the story; every word of dialogue served to pull me further into the story.

I was also very moved by this novel. Some of the situations that the children found themselves in seem cruelly inexplicable and my heart also went out to the parents in this book. It takes immense skill as a writer to ensure a reader will engage with so many different characters within a book and the author is exceptionally skilled at this aspect of writing.

I often find myself confused by names when I read books set in Russia and my heart sank a little when I saw a glossary of characters at the beginning of this book as I felt it suggested that this would be equally confusing. However, whilst I found myself referring to it at the beginning of my reading I soon got to grips with who was who and was just immersed in the story.

This book was disturbing and entertaining in equal measure making for a hugely interesting, informative and intelligent read. I highly recommend this book and am looking forward to reading more work from this author.

ISBN: 978 0099580331

Publisher: Arrow

Price: £3.85 for the paperback version from Amazon.

About the Author:

Born in 1965 Simon Sebag Montefiore read history at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge University, where he received his Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD).

Catherine the Great and Potemkin was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson, Duff Cooper, and Marsh Biography Prizes. Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar won the History Book of the Year Prize at the British Book Awards. Young Stalin won the Costa Biography Award (UK), the LA Times Book Prize for Biography (US), Le Grand Prix de la BiographiePolitique (France) and the Kreisky Prize for Political Literature (Austria). Jerusalem: The Biography won the Jewish Book of the Year Prize, from the Jewish Book Council (USA). Dr Montefiore's books are published in forty languages. 

He is the author of the acclaimed novels Sashenka as well as One Night in Winter. 

His next major history book will be The Romanovs: Rise and Fall, 1613-1917, out in 2016 in hardback, 2017 in paperback, followed by The World: a Biography. Dr Montefiore wrote and presented the BBC television series Jerusalem: Making of a Holy City, Rome: History of the Eternal City and his latest, a history of Istanbul: Byzantium A Tale of 3 Cities. 

A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and Visiting Professor of Humanities at the University of Buckingham, he lives in London with his wife  and their two children. 

(Author information courtesy of

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