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The Man From St. Petersburg (2003)

The Man From St. Petersburg (2003)
3.8 of 5 Votes: 5
0451208706 (ISBN13: 9780451208705)
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The Man From St. Petersburg (2003)
The Man From St. Petersburg (2003)

About book: This is a Follett thriller published back in 1982. The setting is 1914 Britain as Germany is preparing for war, storing its gold and calling in debts. Britain is watching carefully, concerned about its ability to win without the help of Russia to open up a second front in Europe and thus diminish Germany’s resources by diluting a single point of attack.In Britain, we are introduced to Lord Stephen Walden at his grand estate, Walden Hall. Along with his title Walden has several thousand acres in the south of England, a huge chunk of Scotland, six racehorses, a large villa in Monte Carlo, a shooting box in Scotland and a seat in the House of Lords. He is married to Lydia, and they have a lovely daughter Charlotte who is eighteen and preparing to be introduced at court to the King and Queen. Like many young women of the time born into aristocratic families, Charlotte is incredibly naïve. She has led a sheltered and privileged life, not only in terms of her own personal development but also in terms of what is happening outside the walls of the estate and in the world itself.Lydia is the beautiful Russian wife, the daughter of a Russian Count who Stephen conveniently married after many years of bachelorhood when he suddenly needed a wife to manage his households and produce an heir. Lydia was considered “good Countess material” and thus began a very practical marriage. Lydia has since learned the English language and the British ways, and has carefully created a placid life for herself in London. Over the years Lydia and Stephen have grown closer and have now learned to love one another.Churchill approaches Lord Walden with his concerns about the future of Britain and a request to help the country. To ensure its independence, Britain must negotiate a military alliance with the Russians to join Britain in facing Germany, in the event the Germans attack France. Churchill wants Stephen to perform that task. Lord Walden is intrigued by a mission filled with adventure and excited by the prospect of playing an important role in this international cat and mouse game. He knows the Czar, the Russian country and its language and is the Czar’s choice for the discussions in which Russia will participate. Walden has not been involved in international relations for some time but has always found it an absorbing and fascinating mix, with its conflict of personalities, artful negotiation and its envelope of secrecy. Orlov is the envoy Czar Nicholas sends to Britain for this secret meeting and he just happens to be Walden’s wife’s cousin. Stephen knows Orlov from his time in Russia and when the boy was ten, he was part of Lydia and Stephen’s wedding party. Orlav is handsome, charming and although only thirty he is already an Admiral. He is a man with boyish charm but with thoroughly grown up brains, who is not only intelligent but crafty. As the talks begin, Stephen soon discovers that this will not be an easy “walk in the park”. Stephen as the older more mature individual with experience in politics, thought he might have the upper hand, but he soon discovers that when he thinks he is in control of the negotiations Orlav says something and Stephen realizes that Orlov has been in control all along.We are also introduced to Felix, a young anarchist who is also anxious to meet Orlov, but for a different reason. He wants to kill him. Felix, helped by spies in the Russian secret police, has found out about the proposed secret agreement and heads to London to complete his mission. Felix is not only well informed, but he is clever and very determined to protect the innocent lives of Russian peasants who will be slaughtered in a bloody battle in which they have no interest. As an ardent anarchist, he knows this battle will only further the interests of the rich upper classes, who will betray their own people. Felix feels that if he can kill Orlov, then the Russians, who have always hated the Brits for providing asylum to their exiled anarchists, will refuse to participate in an alliance. Especially when it becomes known that the killer was one of those exiled anarchists for whom the British had provided protection. Felix also wants to foment a revolution in Russia and feels the Russian people will revolt once they know how the Czar is betraying them by sending them to war. Felix makes his way to Germany from Geneva with little money, but nothing frightens him. If he is hungry he steals, if he is chased he hides, if he is threatened he kills. He wants nothing, and nothing can hurt him. He has led a miserable life and emotion like love, pride, desire and compassion are all forgotten. He is completely fearless and perfectly able to complete this murderous mission. If there are problems he will solve them, if there are questions he will answer them. He will simply get the job done no matter what the cost. It will take nerve but he has plenty. As the drama unfolds we become aware how critically the lives of all these characters are intertwined.The characters are well drawn (all except one, which is purposeful) and the author has slowly and skillfully provided their backstories as the tale is told. We hear each of their silent dialogues and appreciate their determination to get through their lives despite its small joys and incredible challenges. This allows the reader a better understanding of their behavior and it is easy to develop empathy for each of them despite their individual personal and political alignments.The historical details also provide a rich backdrop for them: the elite British clubs, the East side tenements, the privileged lives of the British upper crust with its rigid codes for dress and behavior and the horror of torture in the gulag. All add to the reality of the narrative. And there are not too many characters. The action is tightly plotted and the tension is never diluted by miscellaneous tangents that do not add to the suspense. This book captures you from the first page. It holds the suspense well and provides some really chilling and intricately detailed chase scenes in which you see in your mind’s eye exactly what is happening. They are well worded, easy to follow and soaked in suspense. I had to put down this book a few times, but I did not want to! I just wanted to keep going to find out what would happen next. The pace hums with tension that builds slowly and effectively and holds you until the very end. There are some nice twists and turns and a very satisfying conclusion.Very much enjoyed this, my third Follett read.

Actually, if Goodreads would let my cast my vote in half-star increments, I'd rate this book 4.5 stars, as Ken Follett subtly inserts his personal pro-socialist agenda (Follett is, by his own admission, a self-described "champagne socialist") throughout the book, especially the Epilogue, which I don't care for as a Libertarian and free-marketeer, but what the hell, I still enjoyed the book very much. This was my second time reading this book, the first time being way back in February 1988 at the age of 12. Needless to say, I'm able to appreciate and understand the book even more now, with the beneficial hindsight of adulthood, actual world travel experience (including London), a Bachelor's degree International Relations, partial Master's degree in Military History, and some familiarity with the Russian language.An exciting, always entertaining, intrigue-filled, action-packed thriller set in 1914, a few months before the start of the First World War, involving a plot by the antagonist (perhaps anti-hero would be apropos) and titular character, Russian anarchist Felix Kschessinsky (trying saying that surname three times in a row real fast, heh heh) to derail a pending Anglo-Russo alliance by assassinating the Czar's envoy, Prince Aleksander ("Aleks") Orlov before he (Prince Orlov) can negotiate a treaty with his English counterpart--and family member via marriage--Lord Stephen, Earl of Walden. Feliks' motivation behind this plot is the desire to prevent Russia's entry into the pending "Great War" that many leaders on both sides of the English Channel see as imminent (the timeline of the novel includes the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in June 1914, but stops shy of the actual official August 1914 start of the war) and thus prevent the deaths of many thousands of Russian soldiers from the starving peasant classes. Through the course of the novel, Feliks must contend with not only Lord Walden, but the Czar's secret police, Scotland Yard, and none other than the younger Winston Churchill.Adding to the intrigue are the fact that Stephen Walden's wife, the Russian-born-and-raised Lady Lydia, was a secret lover of Feliks' during their younger, wilder days....which eventually leads to the question of who is the real father to the Walden heiress, Lady Charlotte (who is just turning 18 and making the transition to young adulthood as the book begins).Speaking of Charlotte, there is an interesting sub-plot about her joining the then-burgeoning suffragette movement....her character, along with her best friend Belinda, offer eye-opening insights as to just how sexually ignorant and unaware upper-class Western girls were in Victorian times, a mere hundred years ago.Feliks, though a villain, is a hard man to root against, and is indeed a sympathetic figure in many ways, as his heart is in the right place, even if his head isn't entirely; who knows, IF a real-life counterpart of Feliks really had managed to prevent Russia's entry into WWI, then maybe, just maybe, the Bolshevik Revolution would have never succeeded and Russia would've never fallen under the totalitarian jackboot of communism (but then again, without Russia, Britain & France might not have been able to defeat the Kaiser). Speaking myself as a Libertarian, my Libertarian brethren are often accused of being "anarchists;" we are certainly NOT anarchists, but we certainly want to MINIMIZE government, and I find much concurrence with Feliks and his fellow anarchists on the evil and oppressive ways of government. However, I disagree and take issue with Feliks and his political (anti-political?) brethren with their across-the-board condemnation of private wealth.Hypothetical Fantasy Casting Call (if "TMFSP" had been made into a movie in the 1980s or 1990s):--Donald Sutherland as Feliks (hey, he already played the titular villain in the filmic adaptation of another Follett novel, "Eye of the Needle")--Sir Anthony Hopkins as Lord Stephen, Earl of Walden (Sir Richard Burton would've been a good choice as well)--Daniella Bianchi as Lady Lydia Walden (she was best known as KGB Corporal Tatiana Romanov, the Bond Girl in "From Russia With Love")--Lady Charlotte Walden (IF she could pull off a decent British accent)--Scotland Yard Special Branch Superintendent Basil Thomson: Malcolm McDowell--Prince Aleks Orlov: Jason Priestly
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Ray Ziemer
Enjoyed this period thriller by Ken Follett. It fit right in with reading I've been doing on both Russia and WWI. Some of the plot details are a little fantastic, but because it's FOllett and he keeps things moving, the reader doesn't really have much time to sit and think about that. You just want to turn the page, read the next chapter, find out what happens next. What a talent! He Sketches out some pretty good characters, not the least of whom is the anarchist Feliks, on a mission to assassinate a Russian diplomat before he can arrange the alliance that will bring Russia into the oncoming World War. It's 1914 and the world is about to change for all of Europe, as well as the millions of Russians heading for revolution. IN retrospect, modern-day readers may agree that Felix's cause is the right one. Yet most probably see him as a cold-blooded killer who needs to be stopped. That task falls to Earl Stephen Walden, the aristocrat who finds his family in the middle of the conflict - his Russian wife as well as his naive (but rapidly maturing) debutante daughter. Follett throws a few surprises at us, keeps us guessing, in realistic-feeling depiction of prewar London. Glad I picked this one up!
Ken Follett is a a prolific writer--not as prolific as James Patterson, but pretty close. Although prolific, Follett does not miss details or historical minutia. In this book, the Earl of Walden is convinced by Winston Churchill and King George to broker an alliance with Russia in 1914. Germany is creating swords out of plowshares and war appears eminent. It is crucial that Russia align itself with England.The Earl of Walden's wife is from Russian aristocracy and her past is linked with a Russian anarchist. How this impacts her, her husband and daughter ties closely into this drama.I liked this book and the dynamics between the characters. Follett's style of writing is delicious to read and creates clear visions of each scene and character. One thing that I was not "hip" on was the women's suffragette movement being intwined in this book. I understand why Follett put in the book to help connect the characters together at crucial points but this movement took away from the bigger issue of impending WWI.
Conta-me Histórias
Brilhante. Fantástico. Esplêndido. Maravilhoso. Uma obra-prima!Adorei este livro que me fez lembrar os clássicos russos, quer pela história quer pelo brilhantismo da escrita. Durante a leitura não me saiu da memória Anna Karenine de Tolstoi, romance ao qual este se assemelha, sendo no entanto bem diferente.Lydia, uma jovem aristocrata russa apaixona-se por Feliks, um jovem anarquista, mas a sua paixão é descoberta e o pai da rapariga enreda uma forma de os afastar de forma definitiva e drástica. Manda prender Feliks e torturá-lo enquanto que a Lydia lhe dá a oportunidade de se casar com um lorde inglês e ir viver para Inglaterra a troco da libertação do seu amado. Lydia aceita e assim se vê casada com um homem que não ama nem conhece. Ao longo de 17 anos de casamento aprende a amar o marido, a respeitá-lo e a reprimir os seus desejos e memórias. Mas a sua filha Charlotte, prestes a fazer 18 anos desafia as suas memórias há muito recalcadas.O Mundo, e em especial a Europa, atravessam um período difícil e o príncipe Orlov desloca-se da Rússia para Inglaterra a fim de negociar um acordo político entre as duas nações. Orlov, primo de Lydia, traz consigo um destino que desconhece: um assassino viaja também da Rússia para Inglaterra, com a missão de matar Orlov.Quem é este assassino que persegue Orlov, mas que se vê ele próprio perseguido por um passado que julgava esquecido? Poderá um homem frio, calculista, preparado para matar sem remorsos ser atormentado por fantasmas de um amor há muito perdido?Uma leitura fantástica, ao nível dos grandes clássicos. Recomendo a sua leitura sem qualquer reserva.Prós: A escrita brilhante. A história maravilhosa. As descrições da vida no início do século. A forma como dá a conhecer a história das sufragistas e da sua luta. O contexto histórico em que se desenvolve a narrativa. Enfim, tudo!Contras: Como contra apenas se podem referir alguns erros ortográficos, que são erro da edição e não da obra.
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