A book blog about Russia in English-language fiction

Tag: Lithuania

The Fall of the Russian Empire by Donald James (1982) – part one

Part two of this review is here

Towards the end of The Fall of the Russian Empire, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and all of the Central Asian republics formally break away from the Soviet Union on the same day.

And what is that date? To quote precisely, ‘then on the morning of December 21st …’.

Nine years after this novel was published, these self same republics all signed, on the same day, the Alma-Ata Protocol, which saw them join the Commonwealth of Independent States and leave the collapsing Soviet Union behind. And what was the date of that signing? December 21st 1991.

The Fall of the Russian Empire was published in 1982, when almost no analyst was imagining the imminent collapse of the global superpower that was the Soviet Union.

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Tatiana by Martin Cruz Smith (2013)

Tatiana is the 8th of Martin Cruz Smith’s Arkady Renko novels, all of which were re-packaged in 2013, with new  monochrome photo covers and availability as ebooks.

The Renko novels go all the way back to their remarkable opener, Gorky Park published in 1981, during the dying days of the stagnant but, from this distance, strangely beguiling Brezhnev years. The most recent, The Siberian Dilemma, was published in 2019.

In several interviews over the years —for example in the New York Times in 1990— Martin Cruz Smith has talked about how he originally intended to write a novel about an American detective who goes to Soviet Moscow. Then the ‘obvious idea’ came to him; to make his hero a Russian detective. Arkady Renko was created.

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If Only You Knew by Alice Jolly (2006) – part two

Part one of this review is here.

If Only You Knew sees a life transformed as another life dies. Its place and time —Moscow in the year of the Soviet collapse— serves as metaphor for the developing story.

Eva and Rob arrive in a city that is recognisably Soviet in its restrictive and proscriptive milieu. By the novel’s end, intimations of emerging life in all its chaotic and elemental potential are visible on the streets of Russia’s capital.

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