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The background knowledge and information conveyed by the setting is certainly interesting and Simon Sebag Montefiore's research into Stalin shows. However the foreground story really is unbelievable and moreover has been softened and sanitized, thereby putting the credibility of the entire book in jeopardy. Worse, it is not helped by a very humdrum rendition by Simon Slater, who frequently makes incorrect sense breaks - odd, because he seemed to read the much more challenging Wolf Hall to considerably better effect. So why, despite all these criticisms, am I still engaged and listening until the end? I suppose because it has the auditory equivalence of being a "page turner". I end with an excellent quote from the Irish Times : "Simon Sebag Montefiore ingeniously blends the invented with the real but, like the author’s name, the story is a tad too long."
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What did you like most about One Night in Winter?
The main theme, the arrest of a group of teenagers, friends of the victim of two murders during the victory parade in Moscow in 1945, encapsulates the cruelty and topsy turvy world of the Stalin regime. The crudity of the interrogators and of the top apparatchiks is vividly cnveyed. Tension is built up in a series of episodes with clues to suggest that each one will potentially incriminate the actors. We know this but don't quite see how. So we have to go on listening to find out how it will be used and distorted by the authorities. Stalin is a sinister backround presence, a mixture of bonhomie and menace.The element of irony comes from the striving by the parents of the teenagers to be "good bolsheviks", which means suppressing normal human feelings. Scenes of almost unbearable brutality are juxtaposed with scenes of what seem to be normal enjoyment. The writing could be more economical : there are to many adjectives and too many brutal incidents. The love scenes are OK but a bit overdone.
What other book might you compare One Night in Winter to, and why?
Hans Fallada's Alone in Berlin, also describes life under a brutal totalitarian regime, but because the writing is more economical, the effect is stronger
Which scene did you most enjoy?
The early scene where the teenagers in the Pushkin club meet to re-enact the duel between Onegin and Lensky in Eugene Onegin., which perfectly captures teenage innocence and enthusiasm, and hero worship of the cub leader,but at the same time one senses that it will all go horribly wrong
Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
Not really. I should have wanted to cry and perhaps I nearly did when very young children were brought into the Lubianka, missing their Mums and bedtime toys, but generally nausea is a more accurate description of my emotional reaction. Possibly that was intended.
Any additional comments?
It was very well read,especially, given that the narrator is male, when women or girls were often speaking. Local accents were convincing.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful