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The Soviet Sisters: A Novel of the Cold War    by Anika Scott order for
Soviet Sisters
by Anika Scott
Order:  USA  Can
William Morrow, 2022 (2022)
Softcover, CD, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Anika Scott's The Soviet Sisters immerses readers in life in the Soviet Union during the Cold War, from the very different perspectives of two sisters, Marya and Vera. Brought up to be good Soviets, committed to communism and loyal to Stalin, they end up on very different paths.

The novel opens in 1956 Siberia (three years after Stalin's death) where her guard reminds Marya (sent to the Gulag in 1947) of her sister - 'Even when Vera was nice, she was always something else underneath, something I couldn't trust.' Readers then see lawyer Vera that same year reopening her sister's case.

The story moves back and forth in time, starting in 1947 Berlin, after both sisters fought on the Eastern front. Marya, an interpreter, gets involved in a forbidden affair with British officer Henry Barrow. When she's also sent to Berlin, Vera, an officer of state security, learns that her sister visits the British Sector.

At first, Vera seems to intend to save Marya from herself, but that changes to manipulation and betrayal, involving Felix whom Marya had loved - and saved - in wartime. Now Felix blackmails her into acting on his behalf - and ambitious Vera seems to be pulling the strings that eventually lead to Marya's conviction.

Marya is resilient, loving and loyal - and she suffers for it. Does Vera regret her own ruthless actions? She works hard for her sister's release, but it also advances her own interests. The Soviet Sisters is a convoluted tale that gives fascinating insights into Stalin's Russia and its aftermath.

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