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 An autobiographical novel, first published in France, searingly re-creates one of the darkest periods in Russian history as it tells the story of young Anna--a descendant of intellectuals and nobles who had sided with the Bolsheviks. Anna, born in Leningrad in 1925, enjoyed a comfortable early childhood; but as Stalin began his campaign of terror in the early 1930's, all this changed. Her parents divorced, and she and her mother moved to her grandfather's small apartment. Food and fuel were short, but young Anna, though brought up as a Christian, yearned to be a communist so that she would ``be able to help defend our country.'' When her mother remarries and then dies in childbirth, this very relative idyll ends, and Anna goes to live with her father's mother and his naval-hero stepfather Diaka. Diaka's reputation and position provide a measure of comfort, but when the two older people drink, they quarrel, become abusive, and turn on Anna. Meanwhile, school classmates disappear--children of traitors are sent to reform schools--and living conditions deteriorate as the family is forced to give up rooms to avert accusations of privilege. As Anna enters adolescence, the terror begins to affect her own family: Diaka is arrested, as is Anna's father, and she's denounced by the school principal as the daughter of a traitor. An elderly relative tries to rape her, food is short, and now she also begins to drink. War breaks out, the Germans invade, and defying their orders, Anna is sent to a forced labor camp in Austria. But, fortunately, she has relatives in Paris, and this grim recital of horror piled upon horror ends as she is permitted to join them. A relentlessly dark litany of miseries--unrelieved by even the most fleeting lightness--whose impact is undercut by a stilted translation.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-8419-1294-7
Page count: 197pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1993