The Countess of the Revolution by Lana Kortchik: a tumultuous and emotionally-charged – book review –
But in the spring of 1917, her world of wealth and privilege falls apart when revolution breaks out and a rampaging mob storms the grand home she shares with her husband Dmitry. Surrounded by armed guards, and now classed as an enemy of the people, Sophia’s only hope of surviving this dangerous new order lies with one man... her husband’s renegade brother.
Lana Kortchik – whose bestselling debut novel Sisters of War featured two women living under the shadow of German-occupied Ukraine – sweeps readers back to the dark days of the Russian Revolution for a heart-wrenching tale of loss and sacrifice starring two lovers trapped on the opposite sides of a terrifying political conflict.
And what a tumultuous and emotionally-charged story it is... written straight from the heart of Kortchik who grew up in Ukraine and Siberia and at the age of sixteen moved to Australia with her mother, but continues to be inspired by her own family history, not least her great-grandfather, Count Olgert Korsak, who was of Russian nobility and forced to flee his country of birth after taking part in the Polish uprising of 1863.
On March 15 in 1917, Count Dmitry Orlov has planned a lavish dinner at his home near Petrograd’s Neva River but shortly after sundown, the sound of gunfire fills the air and the eerie light of fires devouring the city can be seen from the windows.
For Countess Sophia Orlova, the city of her childhood – the only home she has ever known – is about to become her deadly enemy with the mob ready and willing to get rid of anyone connected to the old regime.
The couple have been married for five years... lawyer Dmitry adores Sophia. The love he bears for his wife is overwhelming. It’s a love that consumes him, but for Sophia, theirs is a marriage not entirely whole, a union in which ‘something was missing.’
During the recent years of the Great War, she has been volunteering to nurse troops at a nearby hospital and ‘felt needed in a way she’s never been before’ and has started to despise the emptiness and frivolity of her personal life.
But now, as the mob break down the doors of their home, and their staff and servants flee, for the first time in her privileged and sheltered life, Sophia is truly afraid, not just for herself but for everyone she loves.
When the rebels threaten to shoot Sophia and Dmitry, they are saved by Nikolai, Dmitry’s brother who has been estranged from the family for years because of his support for the Bolsheviks, and who Sophia never knew existed.
Determined to help Nikolai’s cause, Sophia sets up a hospital wing in the house, nursing injured victims by his side, and soon her kindness captures Nikolai’s heart. But their burgeoning romance is forbidden and with battle lines drawn between the new and the old, both their lives are in danger.
Will their love be strong enough to overcome the horrors of war and revolution, and what future can they have in Russia?
Using the experiences of her great-grandfather, and her research into the revolution, Kortchik’s drama-packed story brings us a brave and determined young woman who is caught between two men and two sides of the revolution, and must come to terms with losing everything... her possessions, her way life and even her identity.
Faced with the prospect of having no place and no real sense of belonging in a Russia transformed, Sophia has to wipe out her past and use her initiative, determination, compassion and strength to forge a new path and create a new way of life for herself.
And armed with her innate understanding of the cruelty, oppression and unfairness of Russia’s centuries-old Tsarist regime, Sophia – unlike her husband – is able to empathise with both sides of the divide, and even the revolutionary cause, but it is the secret, forbidden love she shares with Nikolai that sets her on a perilous journey.
Harnessing all the uncertainties, terrors and powerful emotions of those caught up in the revolution, some unexpected twists that keep the pages turning, and with a thrilling love triangle at its heart, The Countess of the Revolution is a dazzling and delightful winter warmer!
(HQ, paperback, £8.99)