Tuesday, 20 February 2018

#BookReview ~ Red Winter by Julia Underwood #HistoricalFiction #Russia #mustread @BeingJules

Red Winter

By Julie Underwood

Wealthy, privileged Sophie Cooke, the eldest daughter of a successful English businessman in St Petersburg, has her life torn apart by historic changes in Russia. 

In the early 1900s, enjoying a luxurious existence and a social life of parties and balls, Sophie becomes engaged to the love of her life; a young doctor, Anatoly Andropov. The outbreak of the Great War means that their marriage is earlier than planned and Tolya goes to serve in a field hospital on the eastern front.

Sophie, bored and lonely at home, leaves to join him as a nurse. Later she gives birth to a baby boy and, when expecting her second child, conditions compel her to return to her home city, now named Petrograd.

Petrograd becomes the epicentre of the greatest upheaval in Russian history where the Tsar is overthrown and socialist revolutionaries take over the government. During the months and years that follow, the socialist revolution and a bitter Civil War play out amidst uncertainty, lethal danger and brutal violence. Sophie’s family flee to England, to safety, but even that escape is marked with tragedy.

Sophie remains in Petrograd with her children to wait Tolya’s return. Conditions in the city deteriorate, threatening her little family with starvation and disease. Sophie endures endless struggles at home and at work in a state hospital with the fate of her husband always on her mind. Where is he? Is he even alive? Serious illness and the fragile health of her children drive her to join her family in England where she hears the worst news possible which forces her to return alone to Russia to embark on a dangerous quest.

This sweeping novel of love and loss will transport the reader from tsarist Russia in 1913, through the Great War, the Russian Revolution and Civil War to 1922, finally portraying the life of Russian émigrés in England.

My thoughts...

When Sophie married the dashing young doctor, Anatoly Andropov, she had no idea where her life would lead her. In the years that follow, Sophie would witness the horrors of World War I and the terror of the 1917 revolution. Being half-English, Sophie has the chance to leave Russia with her family, but how can she when she knows not what has happened to her husband?

From the splendour of Tsarist Russia to the abject poverty of life under the Bolsheviks, Red Winter by Julia Underwood is a sweeping saga of one young woman as she fights for her country, her family, and the man she loves. The brutality of this time is beautifully portrayed in one of the best historical fiction books I have ever read depicting this era. This book is right up there with Boris Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago, and Danielle Steel's, Zoya. Red Winter is a breathtaking story that had me gripped from the opening chapter — so gripped in fact that I simply could not put the book down and read it in one sitting.

Sophie was a beautifully portrayed protagonist, and while the world is falling down around her, she faces this changing world with courage and integrity. She is the glue that holds her family together, and her bravery is inspiring, as is her self-sacrifice. Sophie meets each disaster head on, and although at times she is discouraged she somehow finds the strength to carry on.

The depth of research, Julie Underwood has dedicated to portraying the period as accurately as she can has to be commended. I found no historical inaccuracies, and the story came across as very real in the telling.

An enjoyable story, filled with tragedy and hardship but with a satisfying ending.

I Highly Recommend.

Links for Purchase

Julia Underwood
I have been writing for many years. At boarding school I took liberties with published work, adapting it into plays for my classmates to perform. Frequently in trouble for ignoring the 'no talking after lights' rule, I related an ongoing saga of terror and mayhem to my friends.

My father was an Intelligence Officer in the British Army and, after World War 2 we lived in Germany and Austria. I have also lived and worked in Jamaica and France.

Before starting a family I worked as a Medical Research Scientist (I have a BSc in Physiology) for the NHS and the Athritis and Rheumatism Council. Running a pub and a restaurant were more stressful and difficult. Later, for many years I was an interior designer, also making soft furnishings.

I write fiction: short stories, children's stories, plays and now, a novel (published for Kindle by Endeavour Press). I have had short stories and articles published in magazines and have won and been short-listed in competitions with my short stories.

My obsessions are wrting, films, cats, cooking and doll's house furnishings (when I'm not writing I obsessively embroider 1"/12" scale replica carpets and knit dolls' house clothes on needles as thin as a wire).
I am now writng a series of murder mystery novellas for Kindle. The first 'A Murder of no Account' reached no:38 in the Amazon Free Kindle books chart and was 1,300th on the paid list for a nanosecond! I am now working on the second Eve Duncam mystery.


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