The Siege of Leningrad is long over but Anna and Andrei still live a tense and terrified existence in the last days of Stalin’s rule. I was immediately drawn into this haunting, suspenseful love story and had to keep turning the page although it was with a sense of foreboding at the inevitability of the coming events. I could feel the winter cold, see the characters, hear their voices, and feel the tension and fear rippling through daily life.
But the man who haunted her father's nights is still alive. Thousands - millions - perish around him, but Stalin appears immortal, like the pitiless gods of the Ancient Greeks. They think, surely he must die soon, but he does not die. And now there is Volkov.
Anna had to accept, once Andrei had explained it all, that there was no choice. He had to take on the boy. It would be worse than useless to argue with Volkov, even on the basis that it wasn't a professionally sound decision. ... They like us being afraid, thinks Anna. It makes them strong. The fact that Volkov has taken to Andrei is one of those things that even years of being careful can't protect you against. A red, tender swelling on a child's leg, that's all it takes to destroy years of caution.