Title: Midnight in St Petersburg
Author: Vanora Bennet
Price: £12.99 (out soon!)
Historical fiction in my opinion is massively underrated and, if well written, usually leads to thrilling interesting novels. Quite simply there are things which cannot be made up and part of the enjoyment, the wonder is due to the knowledge that these events actually happened. ‘Midnight in St Petersburg’ is such a novel and many would draw from it similarities with Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. It is very different however, and if the Russian classics seem daunting it’s n excellent introduction being written by an English author, but who has first-hand experience of Russia, having lived there for many years. Bennet has certainly done intense research and manages to not only incorporate the often unbelievable events of the Russian revolution but also the rumours among the people of Russia, the unanswered questions about the secrets of the monarchy. The reader also gains a sense of truly being a part of the Russian revolution, not merely an onlooker, and the beauty of the traditional, fascinating bourgeois society, with its aspiring musicians, artists, poets and the eccentric nobility as well as the brutality of the Russian Empire. Concentrated in St Petersburg it only give brief information about the effect of the revolution on the rest of Russia, however the events in St Petersburg were significant to the collapse of the Russian Empire.
The events are incorporated into the storyline of a young Jewish musician Inna, who manages to escape Kiev after the assassination of the Prime Minister in 1911. The Jews were the prime suspects of revolutionary activity and fearing the violent brutal pogroms, Inna steals a passport and gets on a train to St Petersburg hoping to stay with her cousin Yash and bringing his violin. But the unrest in the streets of St Petersburg, her cousin is a revolutionary attempting to procure papers for an exiled man and not having papers herself, Inna is possibly in greater danger than she was in Kiev. However she manages to get a job in a violin shop and lodging in the household of the kind Lemans who also house Yasha. Her stunning beauty, charm and exquisite violin playing charms an Englishman Horace Wallick who introduces her to his favourite part of Russia; the glamorous Bourgeois and Inna flourishes among this new bohemian set of friends. Inna is in love, yet she is not sure if it is with her volatile passionate cousin, or the sophisticated, smart Englishman who cares for her greatly and could secure her safety in St Petersburg. Meanwhile the city is in turmoil as the Russian government starts to collapse and revolutionary feelings are growing, no one is safe. Inna meets the nortorious Rasputin who she knows as the kind Father Gregory, a Siberian peasant who has become an obsession of the aristocracy as some beg for his spiritual knowledge and advice while others slander him in the newspapers accusing him of womazing and drunkenness. She also meets the eccentric, outrageous Prince Felix Youssoupoff, who loves to disguise himself, as a peasant, as a poor worker even as a woman! The incorporation of real historical figures into a fictional sory works wonderfully well in this novel as Bennett uses them to provide other opinions of the causes and events of the Russian Revolution in fascinating detail. Horace Wallick was also originally a real person; the authors Great Uncle who lived in Russia before the revolution, forced to return to England, never got over losing his alternative, yet thrilling and luxurious lifestyle when the Tsar was on the throne. But what will Bennett’s ending hold instore for Horace? Inna is in possession of Prince Youssoupoff’s priceless Stradivarius violin which could be her safe ticket out of Russia on board the Dowager Princesses ship to Paris, but which man will she take with her?
The Russian Revolution must be one of the most fascinating, thrilling topics of history and if you’re looking to broaden your knowledge on the subject or learn about it from scratch this is an excellent informative book with detailed information about historical figures and events. Alternatively if you’re just looking for an exciting storyline and interesting characters, you won’t be disappointed.