Discussion Forums - Historical Fiction

Topic: Russian Novels

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Subject: Russian Novels
Date Posted: 11/20/2010 5:29 PM ET
Member Since: 1/24/2009
Posts: 9,498
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I love books set in Russia and/or the old Soviet Block.  Does anyone have suggestions on some good books based there?

Date Posted: 11/20/2010 5:39 PM ET
Member Since: 7/15/2008
Posts: 4,035
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I'll start and hopefully I'll think up more.

Cynthia Harrod Eagles has a trilogy set in Russia. Anna, Fleur and Emily. Anna is early 1800's and ends with Napoleon's retreat from Russia. Fleur takes you through the Crimean War, Fleur through the Revolution. Loved loved loved them. Solid four star reads.

Men on White Horses Annette Motley. Catherine the Great.

Valli and I are getting ready to read The Jade Alliance by Emma Drummond and I believe that is revolution era. I'm also reading The Gathering Wolves by Elizabeth Darrell, another name used by Drummond. Don't go and buy that one just yet...

The Snow Mountain by Catherine Gavin. Revolution but rather dull.

Date Posted: 11/20/2010 7:05 PM ET
Member Since: 6/5/2007
Posts: 2,507
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I like Robert Alexander's books (well, I'm not so fond of Rasputin's Daughter, but I do like Romanov Bride and The Kitchen Boy)

City of Thieves is excellent.

Date Posted: 11/20/2010 7:07 PM ET
Member Since: 10/29/2005
Posts: 3,823
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I really enjoyed Annette Motley's "Men on White Horses" . There's a few silly sex scenes, but the history was mainly right and it ended up being a great book for me.

"Ruslan" by Barbara Scrupski was pretty good, especially if you've read some Russian Classics. Scrupski borrowed characters from writers like Tostoy and picking them out was fun.

Edward Rutherfurd is always good for getting a look at a country's entire history and he has one about Russia, titled "Russka". It's one of the ones I haven't read yet, so I can't say if it's one of his best or not.

My favorite Russian fiction is "The Kitchen Boy" by Robert Alexander. It is absolutely fabulous!! He has a couple other books set in russia also that are all good, solid reads.

Another favorite: "The Siege" by Helen Dunsmore. It is a fantastic look at the Siege of Leningrad.

 

A few more:

The Jewel of St. Petersburg by Kate Furnivall

Ice Road by Gillian Slovo

The Midwife of St. Petersburg by Linda Lee Chaikin

Sashenka by Simon Montefiore

St. Petersburg by Andrey Biely

This one is set in Siberia with Russian characters in a labor camp - The Red Scarf by Kate Furnivall

Date Posted: 11/20/2010 7:08 PM ET
Member Since: 10/29/2005
Posts: 3,823
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Oh, yeah, City of Thieves! How could I have forgotten that great book?!!

Forgot another truly great one - "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. It's about life in a Soviet gulag during Stalinist Russia.

Oh, Paullina Simons! Her trilogy is great! It starts with "The Bronze Horseman".

 

If you like historical mysteries, Boris Akunin has a series that starts with "The Winter Queen".

R.N. Morris has a mystery series that features the detective from "Crime and Punishment". I've only read the 1st one, "The Gentle Axe".

I have another one that sounds good to me..."White Blood" by James Fleming.



Last Edited on: 11/20/10 7:16 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 11/20/2010 7:19 PM ET
Member Since: 1/24/2009
Posts: 9,498
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I loved City of Thieves!  Also, I love Kate Furnivall. She is one of my top favorite authors.

I'm reading The Kitchen Boy right now - Thanks to the suggestion at this site.

I appreciate all the suggestions so far.  I have been going through them and either WL them or putting them on my RL.

Date Posted: 11/20/2010 7:44 PM ET
Member Since: 10/29/2005
Posts: 3,823
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I found this one at the thrift store a few weeks ago... "Malkeh and Her Children" by Marjorie Edelson. I haven't read it yet, but it sounds good! It's about the Jewish community and their lives during the Russian Revolution.

I love novels set in Russia; just wish there were more!

ETA: Two more I've read (I'm looking at my book catalog....)

Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean

Child 44 by Tom rob Smith. This is technically a thriller, but it is set in the past, during Stalinist Russia, and is an excellent book with an intriguing mystery at its core. It was shortlisted for the Booker, I think. There's a sequel too, "The Secret Speech", and I can't wait to read it!

Generations of Winter by Vasily Aksyonov

 

If you want some great non-fiction, definitely try "Nicholas and Alexander" by Robert Massie. This one is so exciting, it reads like good fiction. Another good N/F is "Natasha's Dance" by Orlando Figes. I didn't love this as much as the other one, but it gives a fascinating look at Russian culture and is very readable, not at all dry. There is also a section in the back with lists of further reading if you want more.



Last Edited on: 11/20/10 8:02 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 11/20/2010 9:03 PM ET
Member Since: 7/7/2007
Posts: 4,815
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Edward Rutherfurd is always good for getting a look at a country's entire history and he has one about Russia, titled "Russka". It's one of the ones I haven't read yet, so I can't say if it's one of his best or not.

I loved Rutherfurd's other works, and I enjoy books with a Russian setting, but Russka is one of the few books I just couldn't even finish -- I just could not get into it at all.

I did like Tolstoy's The Kreutzer Sonata and Other Short Stories and Ignatieff's Asya. I also really like Esther Hautzig's The Endless Steppe, which is set largely in Siberia.  Though it is geared toward Young Adults, there is a lot of fascinating historical detail if you like to know how they lived in Siberia -- what they wore, what they ate, what their houses were like, etc.

Rawicz's The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom is nonfiction, but a fascinating story of WW II POWs who escape from a Siberian Gulag.

Then there are always classics -- Dr. Zhivago, Anna Karenina, Gorky Park and a truckload of books about Anastasia and the Romanovs...

Date Posted: 11/20/2010 11:39 PM ET
Member Since: 1/24/2009
Posts: 9,498
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Thanks everyone for the suggestions!  My RL has grown in size.  I do read a lot of contemporary mysteries that are based in Russia, but love the history of the area, so I'm looking forward to reading the books you have talked about.

I loved Gorky Park.  I read it in High School and it kind of stuck with me.  To be honest, I think that is the book that gave me my love for Russia....that and my friend who would call and talk to me in Russian. lol

Date Posted: 11/21/2010 6:20 AM ET
Member Since: 5/31/2009
Posts: 2,931
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Last Edited on: 3/5/11 4:59 PM ET - Total times edited: 3
Date Posted: 11/21/2010 9:45 AM ET
Member Since: 3/6/2006
Posts: 3,070
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Has Rasputin's Daughter of The Romanov Bride been mentioned?  Both by Robt Alexander.  I am also 30 pages away from finishing a non-fiction book called Alexandra The Last Tsarina by Carrolly Erickson. Very, very good.

Date Posted: 11/21/2010 10:12 AM ET
Member Since: 6/16/2008
Posts: 772
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I loved Rutherfurd's London, but couldn't finish Russka. I think it was more due to the fact that I read them close together and the man only has one storytelling format, so it was probably a matter of "OK, didn't I just see this one-trick pony?"  I do like Russian settings, but with my massive TBR I've only got non-fiction under my belt more than fiction. Have lots of fiction on the TBR at the moment....  If you don't mind non-fiction, Robert Massie's bio on Peter the Great is awesome.

Date Posted: 11/21/2010 10:23 AM ET
Member Since: 7/15/2008
Posts: 4,035
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Lori, two books by Emma Drummond on the Crimean war are Forget the Glory and Scarlet Shadows - although not all the setting is in the Crimea. The stories begin elsewhere (India and England respectively).

Date Posted: 11/21/2010 10:45 AM ET
Member Since: 1/24/2009
Posts: 9,498
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Here is a NF book set in Russia, which I thought was good.  Had a hard time getting into it, but it got better. 

 


Last Edited on: 11/21/10 10:46 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 11/21/2010 10:47 AM ET
Member Since: 1/24/2009
Posts: 9,498
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I got The Romonov Bride posted to me overnight!  I can't wait until it get's here. 

Date Posted: 11/21/2010 10:48 AM ET
Member Since: 7/15/2008
Posts: 4,035
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Lori, I tried that one once and didn't get very far. Can't recall why off the top of my head but I was going to give it another go one of these days.

Date Posted: 11/21/2010 11:36 PM ET
Member Since: 6/5/2007
Posts: 2,507
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I loved Russka, but never got through London. I do think his books are a bit hit-or-miss.



Last Edited on: 11/22/10 4:00 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 11/22/2010 10:53 AM ET
Member Since: 4/4/2009
Posts: 9,476
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Not historical fiction, but Martin Cruz Smith sets most of his novels there, and in my usually very critical judgment has developed into as good a writer of fiction as any currently working in the U.S.

Date Posted: 11/22/2010 1:41 PM ET
Member Since: 10/29/2005
Posts: 3,823
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I haven't read any of Martin's Cruz Smith's Arkady Renko series, which are mostly set in Russia, but they are on my list. I had to add them after reading his beautifully written, but bleak and brutal novel set in a Victorian-era mining town; "Rose". It's a fantastic read! Highly recommended! I wish he'd write another stand-a-lone novel.

Date Posted: 11/22/2010 2:59 PM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
Posts: 2,851
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in my usually very critical judgment

John, have you met Karla (virtually, of course)? LOL! Her critiques will curl your hair. I'm looking forward to a showdown. devil

Date Posted: 11/23/2010 10:17 AM ET
Member Since: 2/2/2010
Posts: 1,206
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I just started The Kitchen Boy: A Novel of the Last Tsar:: Robert Alexander.  I may try some more of his after this one.

Date Posted: 11/23/2010 1:52 PM ET
Member Since: 1/12/2008
Posts: 1,356
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How about The Stalin Epigram      by Robert Littell ?

 

I read it earlier this year and liked it---very good on Russia/USSR detail.

Date Posted: 11/23/2010 5:40 PM ET
Member Since: 4/6/2006
Posts: 236
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How about the classics: Tolstoy's War and Peace and, to my mind, the much more enjoyable Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak.

Margaret 

Date Posted: 11/23/2010 5:53 PM ET
Member Since: 7/7/2007
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If you decide to go with War and Peace, there's a new translation out (Peavar and Volokhonsky) which NPR recommended.  It is on my TBR mountain; I picked it up over the summer and decided it was too hot to struggle with a book that big.

Date Posted: 11/23/2010 9:02 PM ET
Member Since: 6/5/2007
Posts: 2,507
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I cannot rave enough about Peavar and Volokhonsky's translations.  All of the ones I read in college were the old Constance Garnett ones, but the newer ones really are better in all ways.

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