A book blog about Russia in English-language fiction

Tag: Berlin

Red Army by Ralph Peters (1989) – part two

Part one of this review is here

Red Army tells the story of an imagined Soviet invasion of western Europe in the 1980s, and tells it entirely from the point of view of Soviet troops. This is no Clancy-esque overview of grand strategy and political manouevres, although Peters does, like Tom Clancy, tell his story through a select series of individuals.

That all of these individuals are in the Soviet armed forces is grist to the Russia-in-fiction mill.

Continue reading

A Patriot in Berlin by Piers Paul Read (1995) – part two

Part one of this review is here

Part three of this review is here

A Patriot in Berlin has some of the archetypal features of books set shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union. To the fore is the presence of those ex-KGB and military types deeply concerned at the loss of Soviet power, and with it their own power. The list of novels built on similar concerns in the 1990s is long (immediately springing to mind are Tim Sebastian’s Saviours Gate, and Tony Cape’s The Last Defector).

Having elements of a formula does not make a novel formulaic, nor does dealing with common themes make it derivative. A Patriot in Berlin has striking elements of its own. It is set in post-unification Berlin in 1992-93 and is based around plans for an exhibition of Russian art forbidden in the Soviet years.

Read has a gift for encapsulating the uncertainty of these years; an uncertainty which Russia in Fiction remembers well from life in Moscow during that period.

Continue reading

A Patriot in Berlin by Piers Paul Read (1995) – part one

Part two of this review is here

A Patriot in Berlin is a novel of the collapse of Communism. It is set in the immediate aftermath of the break-up of the Soviet Union, between August 1991 and July 1993. In other words, in that strange period of suspended political time, between Boris Yeltsin emerging as the victor in Russia after the attempted coup of August 1991 and his eventual victory over the last of the old Soviet-era parliament’s resistance in October 1993.

As is to be expected from its author, A Patriot in Berlin has literary substance. It addresses the questions that this startling and unexpected moment in modern history throws up, dealing with themes of nationalism, materialism, and Communism. At the same time, Read roughly adheres to some spy thriller formulaics; false identities, political factions, violence and torture and sex.

Robert Harris’s review of A Patriot in Berlin noted

There’s more skill here, and more intelligence, than in any number of contemporary novels and the attempt to bridge the gap between ‘serious’ literature and mass-market fiction is a laudable one

Robert harris, daily Mail, 16 september 1995
Continue reading

The Useful Idiot by John Sweeney (2020) – part two

Part one of this review is here.

Who is The Useful Idiot in John Sweeney’s 2020 thriller set in Stalin’s Soviet Union in 1933?

Although the book’s hero, Welsh journalist Gareth Jones, feels himself —in a moment of passing regret— to have behaved as such, the true useful idiots are those Westerners, diplomats and journalists, who are willingly hoodwinked by dreams of Communism whilst refusing to spread abroad stories of the violence, famine, and death before them.

And chief ‘useful idiot’ of the piece is Walter Duranty.

Continue reading

The Secret Lovers by Charles McCarry (1977)

The standard unit of measurement for writers of spy fiction is ‘the Le Carré’. Almost any half-good new espionage writer gets some blurb on the back of their book calling them ‘the new Le Carré’.

Besides being the only espionage writer whose name rhymes with Le Carré, McCarry, who died in 2019, was one of the few to merit the comparison in terms of quality, and indeed of style.

Continue reading

© 2021 Russia in fiction

Theme by Anders NorénUp ↑