One Night in Winter: A Novel

One Night in Winter: A Novel

by Simon Sebag Montefiore

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Inspired by a true story, prize-winning historian and acclaimed novelist Simon Sebag Montefiore explores the consequences of forbidden love in this heartbreaking epic of marriage, childhood, danger, and betrayal that unfolds in Stalin's Moscow during the bleak days after World War II.

As Moscow celebrates the motherland's glorious victory over the Nazis, shots ring out on the crowded streets. On a nearby bridge, a teenage boy and girl—dressed in traditional nineteenth-century costumes—lie dead. But this is no ordinary tragedy, because these are no ordinary teenagers. As the son and daughter of high-ranking Soviet officials, they attend the most elite school in Moscow. Was it an accident, or murder? Is it a conspiracy against Stalin, or one of his own terrifying intrigues?

On Stalin's instructions, a ruthless investigation begins into what becomes known as the Children's Case. Youth across the city are arrested and forced to testify against their friends and their parents. As families are ripped apart, all kinds of secrets come spilling out. Trapped at the center of this witch-hunt are two pairs of illicit lovers, who learn that matters of the heart exact a terrible price. By turns a darkly sophisticated political thriller, a rich historical saga, and a deeply human love story, Montefiore's masterful novel powerfully portrays the terror and drama of Stalin's Russia.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

Award-winning historian Montefiore's second foray into fiction (after Sashenka) revolves around the families of Joseph Stalin's elite cadre of advisers. A group of students at Stalin School 101, the alma mater of Stalin's two children, form a secret club devoted to the poetry of Alexander Pushkin. As teenagers secure in wealth and position, they reenact romantic duels from their favorite poems in fancy dress, oblivious to the suffering and fear building in the postwar Soviet Union. When one of their stunts ends in a fatal shooting, the teens end up in prison. The conspiracy soon engulfs the teens' siblings, parents, and teachers. Secrets, lies, and accusations multiply in a state where everyone is under suspicion. Basing his book on an actual murder case from 1945, Montefiore incorporates fictional families among historical figures such as Stalin and his secret police chief, Lavrentiy Beria. He does an excellent job of portraying the paralyzing tension of powerful high-ranking Soviet officials who are powerless to protect their own families and the chaos of a society where brothers denounce brothers and children denounce parents. VERDICT Highly recommended reading for fans of thrillers, historical fiction, and history. [See Prepub Alert, 11/3/13.]—Catherine Lantz, Univ. of Illinois at Chicago Lib.

Washington Post

As Stalin twists the Children’s Case to his own ends, the truly magnetic power of One Night in Winter becomes clear. The stirring of our deepest fears and their unexpected resolution—at this, Montefiore is the master.

Caroline Jowett

This tightly written page-turner crackles with authenticity and if you are wiping away a tear by the end it won’t be the icy chill of the Soviet winter that’s to blame.

The Independent

A compelling read.

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.

The Spectator

A novel of passion, fear, bravery, suffering and survival…. Its success is helped by Montefiore’s pitch-perfect reconstruction of the golden tightrope that Moscow’s elite walked under Stalin.

The National

Not just a thumpingly good read, but also essentially a story of human fragility and passions.


In this engrossing novel, the setting is the USSR shortly after the end of the Second World War.... As Simon Sebag Montefiore explains in an afterword, this is based on similar real events, and certainly his ease with the setting and certain historical characters is masterly....

Sunday Times(London)

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 Observer (London)

Engrossing…. A mix of lovestory, thriller and historical fiction. Montefiore’s knowledge of the period helps him bring 1945 Moscow to bleak, fascinating life

Evening Standard (London)

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.

Wall Street Journal

Enthralling…. Mr. Montefiore, an English writer hailed for his works of history and biography, is masterly at sketching scenes (passionate, melancholy or menacing) and limning characters…

Mail on Sunday (London)

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.

Jewish Chronicle

Sebag’s new novel draws in the reader and renders time meaningless. Brilliantly depicted.

The Times (London)

Compulsively involving. Our fear for the children keeps up turning the pages…. We follow the passions with sympathy... The knot of events tugs at a wide range of emotions rarely experienced outside an intimate tyranny.

Sunday Mail (Scotland)

A tense historical thriller set in a beautifully crafted world…. Moscow in 1945 comes alive in a wholly believable fashion…. A masterpiece of modern historical fiction.

Time Out London

Delicately plotted and buried within a layered, elliptical narrative, One Night in Winter is also a … page-turner which adroitly weaves a huge cast of characters into an arcane world.

Guardian (London)

A gripping thriller about private life and poetic dreams in Stalin’s Russia…. [A] pageturner….Whether its subject is power or love, a darkly enjoyable read

A. D. Miller

Addictive, uplifting and terrifying.

Marie Claire (UK)

Snuggle up in front of the fire with a glass of red and this captivating story. A dark enigmatic thriller... the way [Montefiore] weaves fiction and history is a true gift.

The Sunday Telegraph

Seriously good fun…the Soviet march on Berlin, nightmarish drinking games at Stalin’s country house, the magnificence of the Bolshoi, interrogations, snow, sex and exile…lust, adultery, and romance. Eminently readable and strangely affecting.

Steve Emmett

A novel full of passion, conspiracy, hope, despair, suffering and redemption….One Night in Winter is a gripping read and must surely be one of the best novels of 2013.


Sudden, mysterious arrests. Brutal interrogations. The crushing of any hint of antigovernment thought. Constant, stomach-churning terror. Such is the reality of Stalinist Russia evoked so convincingly by Montefiore..… This is a gripping, fast-moving tale of love, fear, sacrifice, and survival.

The Wall Street Journal

Enthralling. In a league of its own.

The Washington Post

Truly magnetic. The stirring of our deepest fears and their unexpected resolution—at this, Montefiore is the master.

Kirkus Reviews

British historian Montefiore turns in his second novel, a foreboding tale of Soviet Russia based on actual events.Given that Montefiore is a biographer of The Boss (Young Stalin, 2007, etc.), it's fitting that, as in Anatoly Rybakov's Children of the Arbat—whose spirit looms over this book—Josef Stalin should appear as a central character in this odd drama. Less usual, perhaps, is that Stalin has sympathetic moments: Late in the story, we find him reclining on a sofa, smoking a cigarette and thinking of lost love: "If only there had been more love in my life, he thought despondently, but we Bolsheviks are a military-religious order like the Knights Templar." The romantic and slightly gloopy image suits the larger story, which concerns a class of well-heeled, privileged children who attend a school that's out of Dead Poets Society, if with pictures of Lenin instead of Lord Byron. Young Andrei Kurbsky, from out in the sticks of the Soviet Empire, doesn't share their high status, but, a devotee of Pushkin, he nonetheless is swallowed up in a floppy-haired beatnik-manqué clique that adores the Romantic poets. That's not such a smart move in an age when socialist realism is the only acceptable aesthetic, and Stalin—the sire of less-than-accomplished offspring, as we see—is as ruthless with the children of his own confidants as he is with his political enemies. Though the narrative lags at times, and though Montefiore sometimes inclines to the didactic ("The title ‘Comrade' means Rimm was a member of the Communist Party"), the storyline is unusual enough to keep things moving. The characters, too, are strong and believable, all careening toward a fateful day. Though his novel is based on history and told with a historian's concern for detail, Montefiore notes in an afterword that his is "not a novel about power but about private life—above all, love." Yet, of course, it's power that moves things to their grim conclusion.A kind of Virgin Suicides for the Soviet set, speaking to much that's dark in the human soul—but to what can redeem it, too.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062291905
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 05/06/2014
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 496
Sales rank: 35,404
File size: 724 KB

Customer Reviews