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One Night in Winter

One Night in Winter [Kindle Edition]

Simon Sebag Montefiore
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"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." (The Sunday Times)

"A nail-biting drama ... 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." (Mail on Sunday)

"A master storyteller when writing as a historian, Sebag Montefiore's fiction is just as compelling in this thriller set in Stalin's Moscow." (GQ)

"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." (Evening Standard)

"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." (Books and What Not Blog)


By the author of the world-wide bestsellers, Jerusalem, and Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, and based on a true story, a heart-breaking, addictively readable love story set in Stalin's Russia.


  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • Dateigröße: 593 KB
  • Seitenzahl der Print-Ausgabe: 496 Seiten
  • Verlag: Cornerstone Digital (5. September 2013)
  • Verkauf durch: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Sprache: Englisch
  • Text-to-Speech (Vorlesemodus): Nicht aktiviert
  • X-Ray:
  • Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: 5.0 von 5 Sternen  Alle Rezensionen anzeigen (1 Kundenrezension)
  • Amazon Bestseller-Rang: #188.199 Bezahlt in Kindle-Shop (Siehe Top 100 Bezahlt in Kindle-Shop)

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Before I read the book I was worried it might be too factual (after all, the author is a historian) or too bleak (due to its setting during the time of Stalin). But since I enjoy stories set in Russia I decided to give it a try. I was rewarded with a surprisingly gripping and emotional story about this web of polished lies, whispered half-truth, deceit and desperation and the power of love and humanity set against the backdrop of Stalin’s Soviet Union. And I highly recommend this book.

The book starts with the criminal investigation of the shooting of two teenaged schoolchildren. This investigation, however, soon turns into a paranoid search for conspirators that plan to overthrow Stalin’s government. No one is secure during this time in Soviet Russia. No matter if you are a six year old girl or a war veteran and part of the Soviet government. One Night in Winter shows how Stalin’s system of fear and espionage lets kids turn against their parents and friends become foes. By mixing fictional with historical figures the authors evokes a very lively picture of Stalin’s Russia.

The characters are very believable and they draw you into this world and let you fear and also hope with them. You can feel the terror they experience, you can understand how one lie leads to another – and how they still cling on to hope and love.
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Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen auf (beta) 4.2 von 5 Sternen  71 Rezensionen
21 von 22 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Love and suspect in Stalin's Russia 9. Oktober 2013
Von Lupo - Veröffentlicht auf
By Simon Sebag Montefiore the eminent Stalin's biographer (Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar and Young Stalin), an historical novel set in 1945 Russia. It's a novel about love, family ties, adultery, youth, friendship, fear, hope, deception, psychological violence, secrecy, literature, privilege, Bolshevik faith and its implacable rules.
The author's passionate and profound knowledge of Russian history and his vivid and sophisticated imagination along with his natural talent as a writer generated an unforgettable novel.

The Soviet Union is celebrating the victory on the Nazis. An elite school. A group of teenagers, scions of Bolshevik grandees, forms the Fatal Romantic Club based on Pushkin poetry. A duel is enacted and two of them are mysteriously killed. Their friends are arrested on suspicion of being plotting against the government. On a world where also the members of the establishment live a precarious existence under constant pressure, Stalinist regime puts its unforgiving hand.

The children are forced to testify against their parents, and friends are put one against another. Every word can be used against them now and in the future. Inside and outside the prison a tangible fear, anxiety, and moments of intense longing and love permeate the lives of the characters. Interrogations, deception, suspicion, blackmail, punishment, made up conspiracies, fake truths, unveiled secrets, and hope. They all know what they might face and they all try to survive according to their own nature. Love, remorse, betrayal.

The plot is organized by narrative threads that merge at crucial times designing unexpected twist and turn. The reader is taken through breathless suspensions to the climax and then to the resolution or, instead, to a sudden change of scene. The author masterly drops clues of future events leaving the reader to quick conjectures along with an undeniable emotional participation. The story is crossed by a few leit motif: from the highest picks of culture with Pushkin's poetry to the blindest methods of the Bolshevik system, to love (a lot of romantic love).
Flashbacks, foreshadowings, and intersected brief episodes laid out as patches, create movement, a feeling of anticipation, an intriguing temporary sense of displacement. But the story flows effortlessly and the reader never looses his/her thread.

The sentences are short. The dialogues have rhythm. The style is synthetic, always effective, exquisite in the sequences and in the selection of the words.

The plot is inspired by some real stories. Literary characters and historical ones mingle seamlessly. SSM's familiarity with Stalin and the members and the life of the Politburo makes him confortable in bringing them alive. Stalin, tired, sarcastic, provocative, sadistic, always alert and ready to strike, ferocious also with his closet court. Beria, his top manager, fat, angry, competitive, morbid in his sexual tastes. Or the fictional characters such as Satinov, reticent, introverted, not in touch with his own feelings, struck by an unfamiliar passion. The movie star Zeitlin, beautiful, genuinely selfish, at time clumsy, prima donna in every situation. Or minor characters such Dr Rimm, viciously weak, consumed by the desire of belonging to the higher spheres. Or the 14 year old girl who sleeps with Beria whose face is not described, we are introduced to her only by her flat belly slightly wrinkled by Beria's weight.

The setting is evocative and accurate. The streets of Moscow after the victory on the Nazi appear in front of the reader's eyes. The Communist school. The interrogation rooms, the smell of sweat, urine and detergent, the grinding of the locks, everything is devised to break the prisoners. The precious description of the shabby dwellings of the lower classes that have a hole as a lavatory (and relative smells) shared by many families. And the blatant contrast with the large homes of the Bolshevik leaders inhabited by European furniture, paintings, maids and nannies.

It's simple. Simon Sebag Montefiore writes so well that reading his novel is, in the end, pure pleasure.
9 von 12 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
2.0 von 5 Sternen Interesting, but not overly so and only mediocre writing 15. Februar 2014
Von Burgmicester - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Vine Kundenrezension eines kostenfreien Produkts (Was ist das?)
This is the third book by Montefiore that I have read. His nonfiction writing skills are above reproach and his knowledge of Stalin is extensive. The earlier fictional history, Shashenka, was good attempt at fiction, but this time, Montefiore has come up empty. There is not much of a plot and the formula is just too close to real life events that there is not much fiction involved. It is merely a re-write of historical events with fictional characters. This is not the type of fictionalized history that I enjoy. Putting a new plot into an historic setting is more the style that engages me as a reader. Taking several true events and combining them into a story is a difficult task and Montefiore just cannot make the grade.

Stalin has been a lifelong project of Montefiore. This brutal regime is often glossed over in American history books and so it comes down to true historians to tell the real story. In that, Montefiore is very good, and I like him as a nonfiction writer. His writing skills do not make the transition from nonfiction to fiction. There is a different skillset necessary to draw out the characters and to cause the reader to have empathy for the trials that the protagonists must endure. I could not find myself with any feelings for the characters no matter how unfair the situation. The love stories that weave their way through the story just do not have enough emotion. Taking time to flesh out characters would have caused the book to be two to three times the length, but then maybe an epic novel of real distinction would have evolved. Without taking that time and effort, this story is just flat.

Early in the novel I considered quitting as the story seemed like just a “teen” book. I continued reading as I have a fair amount of respect for Montefiore, but the book I was looking for never materialized. I’m sorry to say that I cannot recommend this book. However, if you are looking for a real history of Stalin, Montefiore’s two volume biography is wonderful.
1 von 1 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen Bringing to life the history of Stalin's regime 17. Juni 2014
Von S. McGee - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Vine Kundenrezension eines kostenfreien Produkts (Was ist das?)
As Stalin's biographer, historian of his era and the author of this novel, Simon Sebag Montefiore, knows all too well, even the children and spouses of the privileged Politburo members weren't exempt from the Soviet dictator's reign of terror, with Stalin himself executing the brother and sister of his first wife, the woman he claimed he loved most in the world, as well as laughing at his son's failed attempt at suicide.

This compelling story brings that history to life, by taking the bare bones of a 1930s tale and transplanting it to the final years of Stalin's rule, and creating a group of fictional characters, all of whom are covering up secrets of some kind. Most of them, however, are secrets that involve love, not the quest for power. But in Stalin's Russia, any secret is treason, and the idea that a secret could involve something as simple as a love affair if it involves personalities close to the Generalissimo is inconceivable. So when what may be a harmless -- if reactionary bourgeois -- game played by the teenage children of Politburo members attending an elite school ends up with two of those children dead, forces within the Kremlin are quick to seize on the events and use them for their own advantage. Clearly, the whispers that reach Stalin say, there must be more to this than a simple lovers' tragedy. Clearly, there is a conspiracy. And so a toxic spiral begins: one after another, classmates and relatives of the dead youngsters are hauled in for questioning. Each tries to navigate the situation as best they can. "Andrew saw how the progress of this case resembled a play in the theatre. None of it was true, and he had no idea how the plotline would conclude. Yet this deadly fantasy could be tilted one way or the other by a word too many here, a piece of bad luck there."

This isn't Simon Sebag Montefiore's first attempt to parlay his knowledge of Stalinist Russia into fiction, but I ended up greatly preferring this to "Sashenka", that earlier effort. The characters felt more true to life, and the narrative flowed more smoothly, whereas the events in the previous novel felt more like setpieces created to display the author's expertise. In this case, I felt for Andrei, the talented student who, with his mother, has just returned from exile and has managed to land a place at the elite School 801, where he almost instantly becomes infatuated with Serafima. But Serafima has a secret of her own, as do many members of their parents' generation, and collectively, those secrets will crash into their lives, leaving none of them unscathed.

Who will survive? What compromises will they make? I couldn't put this down until those questions had been answered, which meant a non-stop reading session over an entire weekend.

This isn't a fast-paced thriller, and probably will appeal more to someone who is familiar with some of the historical backdrop. But it's all carefully structured, with unexpected revelations introduced at precisely the right time, and the narrative building toward a sense of unbelievable tension as loyalties are stretched to an unbelievable extent. The drama here comes from the author's ability to capture his characters' emotional swings: love, fear, suspicion, anxiety, panic, wariness, in all their forms. What is loyalty? What is truth?

Iconic work of Great Literature; another Dr. Zhivago? Nope. A thumping good read, and a novel that I can see myself re-reading in the future? Absolutely. 4.5 stars, although the sometimes overly-complicated plot doesn't warrant bumping it up to 5 stars.
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4.0 von 5 Sternen Frightening and Moving 16. Juni 2014
Von Barb Mechalke - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Vine Kundenrezension eines kostenfreien Produkts (Was ist das?)
Two teenagers have been shot and killed in an incident following Moscow's Victory Parade, on June 24, 1945. Both students are children of high ranking officials and attended the elite School 801 in Moscow, the same school Stalin's children attended. An investigation into the incident seems at first a wild goose chase but an incredible amount of pressure is placed on the dead children's siblings and friends and every private thought and casual comment becomes worthy of suspicion and scrutiny, including those that the children have overheard their parents whispering to each other.

This novel offers a glimpse of what life was like in the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin. The set-up of the novel is good, there are several mysteries that are alluded to that hold the reader's attention and the stories that unfold within it are moving. Unfortunately there's a lag in pacing that may cause some readers to lose interest. There's also a minimum of character development in the first half of the book that may make it difficult to sympathize with the characters.

While the theme of trust no one is repeated over and over, at first the sentiment seems unnecessarily cautious, paranoid even, until the truth of the political climate is revealed. Once you understand what the characters have lived through and been forced to deal with the story takes on new meaning. These aren't just fictional characters these stories are based on incidents that really happened and describe how the Soviet people were terrorized for decades.

I admit I had a difficult time staying focused on this story, the lag in pacing that I mentioned earlier almost caused me to abandon this novel but I'm really glad I kept reading. The author redeems his characters in the second half of the book when he reveals their true depth. This was not the fast paced suspenseful novel that I anticipated it to be, but it was very well done and worthy of reading.
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4.0 von 5 Sternen Passion, fear, bravery: all in pre-Cold War Russia 1. Juni 2014
Von Book-alicious Mama - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Kindle Edition
One Night in Winter by Simon Sebag Montefiore is an enjoyable novel that transports you to another time and place. Montefiore manage to weave together a story of historical persons (Stalin, Molotov) and fictional characters flawlessly. The reader is sucked into a world where neighbors spy on each other and there is an overall feeling of government paranoia. One Night in Winter takes place in the days before the Cold War began and Stalin is suspicious of everyone. There are sudden mysterious arrests; brutal interrogations; stomach-churning terror.

The story centers around a group of children — teenagers really — who get arrested and are interrogated, after an seemingly innocent activity turns deadly. Most of the kids are children to upper class parents. Stalin instead uses this an an opportunity to test the loyalty of the parents. Will they chose their children or Mother Russia and Stalin? Will they be jailed themselves for party disloyalty?

The passages in One Night in Winter that deal with the investigation are the strongest in the book. There is the bleak formica desk; a single naked bulb; blood splattered walls; and urine stained mattresses. Montefiore slowly has you realize that many lives (thousands) were lost in places like this. He has you realize that most of the victims were innocent of any crime, and that they were children. Parts of One Night in Winter are based on interviews with the children of Stalin’s court (“the Children’s Case”).

Montefiore has written an gripping and intelligent story that will leave you yearning for a grain of hope. One Night in Winter is a darkly enjoyable read about power, love, fear, sacrifice and survival.
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