Monday, February 15, 2016

538 (2016 #4). Sashenka

by Simon Montefiore,
read by Anne Flosnik

Sashenka is a fascinating work of historical fiction set in three time periods in twentieth century Russia - 1916, 1939, and 1994.  The title character was born in 1900 to a wealthy Jewish family in St. Petersburg, but decides to follow her uncle and become a Bolshevik.  By 1939 she and her husband are part of the Communist elite, but then Sashenka makes a mistake that brings her world crashing down around her.  The third part of the book is set in 1994 with a historian of the day trying to find out what happened to Sashenka and her family.

The story is quite long (over 500 pages in print), but I learned SO much about Russian history.  Author Simon Montefiore has written a biography of Stalin as well as other nonfiction works about Russia,  His extensive background (and research experience in formerly-inaccessible Russian archives) serves him well in providing the settings and atmosphere of this story.  I truly felt I was *there* along with the characters.

The main weakness of this first novel for Montefiore are the amazing number of coincidences that make the third part of the book a reality.  Two major characters from the 1916 era have to live to very ripe old ages to make the events in the 1994 section possible.

I also found Anne Flosnik's reading of the audiobook to be problematic.  Her British accent is not an issue, it was her attempt to provide Russian accents that caused difficulty.  It was much harder than it needed to be to understand what many of the characters were saying.  I would have preferred for her to just use her normal voice and not try to (poorly) do accents.

Oh, but I do absolutely love the cover of this book.

© Amanda Pape - 2016

[This audiobook was borrowed from and returned to my university library's digital collection.]

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