“In a small, provincial town behind the Iron Curtain, Sasha lives in a house full of secrets, one of which is her own dream of becoming an actress. When she leaves for Moscow to audition for drama school, she defies her mother and grandparents and abandons her first love, Andrei.
Before she leaves, Sasha discovers the hidden war journal of her uncle Kolya, an artist still missing in action years after the war has ended. His pages expose the official lies and the forbidden truth of Stalin’s brutality. Kolya’s revelations and his tragic love story guide Sasha through drama school and cement her determination to live a thousand lives onstage. After graduation, she begins acting in Leningrad, where Andrei, now a Communist Party apparatchik, becomes a censor of her work. As a past secret comes to light, Sasha’s ambitions converge with Andrei’s duties, and Sasha must decide if her dreams are truly worth the necessary sacrifice and if, as her grandmother likes to say, all will indeed be well.”
As longtime readers of this blog know, I love historical fiction done right, and A Train to Moscow (Amazon) is a closer look at life in the Soviet Union in the years following World War II right up to 1968. The book, for me at least, turned out to be quite different than what the synopsis described. It took me quite a while to get into the novel, as there is jumping back and forth in the timeline and it’s not clearly described what year it is when a chapter starts. You sort of have to figure it out as you go along. I’m not that well informed on Soviet history, so having year demarcations would have helped immensely.
The writing is top-notch, and I really got a feel for Russia during the time period portrayed. Sasha is a well-written character who is a bit of a revolutionary with her life choices, which was not the norm at the time. There’s a lot of baggage with family secrets, and loss and sadness and deprivation and fear, but there’s also hope.
The ending was not what I was expecting, yet it seemed fitting given Sasha’s strong character. At its core is a story about the strength of people under less-than-ideal circumstances, and how they persevere to find happiness in the end.
For more reviews, visit www.bargain-sleuth.com
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