by Michael Ignatieff

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Library Journal
Asya is a sweeping saga of one woman's innocence and betrayal played out against the backdrop of major world events of the 20th century. Born to Russian nobility in 1900, Asya Galitzine loses everything during the Russian Civil War, but has a brief affair with a dashing officer named Sergei. Fleeing the Bolsheviks, she goes to Paris, pregnant and alone, and joins other Russian emigres. History proceeds at breakneck speed after Sergei turns up in 1924, marries her, and disappears suspiciously on the eve of World War II. Forced into exile in London, she loves and loses a Canadian officer. Almost 50 years later his diaries will unlock the truth about her husband when she pays a final visit to Moscow. Ignatieff, host of the BBC's Live at Night , convincingly portrays the conflicts experienced by Russians torn between memories of the old ways and realities of the new, a situation that continues even today. It will make a great glasnost miniseries. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/91.-- Jacqueline Adams, Carroll Cty. P.L., Westminster, Md.
Kirkus Reviews
A wonderfully enthralling first novel from writer-historian Ignatieff (The Russian Album, 1987, etc.)—unabashedly unpretentious but satisfyingly literate and informative. Asya is one of those remarkable women who somehow survive countless traumas with high spirits and innocence intact. Born in 1900 to a wealthy noble Russian family, Asya as a small child had tried to cross an ice-bound river. Just before she fell through the ice, she had seen a mysterious skater, all dressed in white, coming toward her through the mist. Her survival is thought to be miraculous, but the "shock of the river had frozen something inside her and in the future there would be moments when her actions would rise from a dark and unknowable region of herself. That was the price she paid for crossing the river. What she won was fearlessness." And it is this lack of fear—this refusal to mourn the past or dig beneath the surface—that shapes Asya's life. Her parents die; she trains as a nurse; the Revolution begins; and, fleeing from the advancing Reds, she meets Sergei, the great love of her life. Safe in Paris, she bears Sergei's child, then soon acquires a job and a circle of helpful admirers. In 1924, Sergei turns up; they marry, prosper, but when the invading Germans force Asya to flee, she learns some unpleasant truths about her friends. Treachery is everywhere, yet Asya survives, and in a final visit to Moscow in 1990, in search of Sergei—a man of secrets as well—she finally accepts what she has denied for so many years. A sufficiently complex plot, memorable characters, dramatic events, and vivid and various settings, together with a heroine worthy of them all: one of those rarebooks that will delight all those who enjoy a good story well told. A reading feast.

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Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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