Sweeping tale of love and loss

February 3, 2014
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Midnight in St Petersburg,

by Vanora Bennet (Random House, RRP $38):

It’s Russia, 1911, and young Jewish woman Inna Feldman has taken her destiny into her hands and travelled to St Petersburg. Her own family are long dead and the relatives she’d lived with are now emigrating so as to escape a threatened pogrom. Feeling slightly abandoned and in fear for her own safety, she is galvanised into fleeing to a distant cousin.

To her relief and perhaps more thankfully due to her charm, skills and no less her beauty, she finds a home, security and a whole new window on life. She also finds love. This would all be fine but she has two admirers to choose from. This love triangle is played out against a background of a turbulent time in Russian history. Oppression of the ordinary population has resulted in political unrest, revolutionary groups, and political assassinatons. It’s a time of incredible wealth, luxury and waste in a country that bleeds first in war and then in revolution.

It’s an engaging narrative with plenty of history and drama. A nice, easy read even if sympathy for Inna starts to wear thin at times. Of interest is the author’s own family connection to one of the characters around whom she has spun her fictional tale.

F Mulligan

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