Simon Montefiore: Historian writes a novel





Simon Montefiore is well known for his historical writing on Russian subjects. In a letter to his readers at the beginning of his first novel, Sashenka, he explains how, in the course of his research in the Russian state archives, he was moved by the material he discovered that bore testimony to the courage and suffering of Russian women, particularly during the years of Stalin's terror.

The documents he studied were intensely personal - names, intimate details, even photographs of women who had lost family or themselves suffered and died in Stalin's death camps. 'I determined then', Montefiore explains, 'to write a novel about one such woman who'd lived through revolution, war and turbulent change.'

His heroine, Sashenka Zeitlin, is an aristocrat, the daughter of a rich Jewish banker and his wayward wife, educated at the Smolny Institute for Noble Girls on the steps of which, aged 16, she is arrested for Bolshevik activities - a way of life into which she has been drawn by her radical uncle Mendel, who has prescribed a course of revolutionary reading for his clever, beautiful, teenage niece.

Inspired rather than deterred by her brief taste of prison life, Sashenka (or Comrade Snowfox, as she is known in Bolshevik circles) remains faithful to the cause and when revolution comes, passes seamlessly from Tsarist to Bolshevik aristocracy.


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