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Stalin's children : three generations of love and betrayal
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Stalin's children : three generations of love and betrayal

3.66 of 5 stars 3.66  ·  rating details  ·  298 ratings  ·  55 reviews
A raw, vivid family memoir about lineage and escape - how we struggle to define ourselves in opposition to our ancestry only to find ourselves aligning with it, trapped in the skeins of history.
Hardcover, 308 pages
Published 2008 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
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Kl
I really wanted to like this book. The family's story was compelling. However, the author's style was difficult to handle. Memoirs/histories are best told in straight chronological order. It takes a special kind of author and tale to be able to handle a story that moves back and forth between time periods. This book would have been better served had the author told his family's story first and then, in the end, shifted to his experiences in Russia. Every time I really started to get into the sto ...more
Melissa
Owen Matthews is a wonderful storyteller. Really magnificent prose. He does a good job of painting the various shades of Russia, depending on which decade/social class/ethnicity you happen to belong to. I think this effort deserves praise since Russia in the 1930s was vastly different from Russia in the 1990s, not to mention the years between them. Matthews captures this change, and shows the heart of Russia with insight and intelligence, all while portraying the resilience and instinct for surv ...more
Heather
Stalin's Children is the story of one family's unique experiences amid the changing social and political sphere of Russia. Encompassing Russia's history from the 1920s onwards, Matthews acquaints us with three generations of his family who experienced extreme persecution and overwhelming odds, each bearing witness to pre- and post-Stalinist Russia. The memoir begins with the story of Boris Bibikov, a prominent Russian party member in the 1920s. Bibikov and his small family lived in relative comf ...more
Chrissie
This was a very interesting book about three generations of the author's family and life in the former Soviet Union under Stalin, through the Cold War and Perestroyka. This is a book about how some people were destroyed and yet others entered the dark tunnel and came out the other side still being able to smile. People are so different in how they react to what life throws at them. This book made me stop and think about how you look at people in your family and summarize their traits - for examp ...more
Leila
I was pretty riveted by this book. I thought the author's prose was beautiful, and I appreciated his many personal insights into his parents' feelings and lives.

I don't believe that this book should be read as primarily a love story. While certainly many of the events of the book surround two people who became attached to each other and wanted to be together, I don't think it's fair to look at their story as the main theme of the book. This book is, more than anything else, a picture of the Rus
...more
Jillian
Very informational, but I liked that he wasn't overly descriptive of the most horrible moments. I know they happened, but that doesn't mean I want to re-live it. He is detailed without making me miserable, which allowed me to learn more than I would have otherwise. Overall, a good look at what happened in Soviet Russia.
Kathrina
A tragic story of the author's own family through the decades of Stalinist and cold-war Russia. Any family's personal struggles and sufferings during the age of Stalinism is poignant and sad, and a survivor's tale always makes for good reading. Matthew's skills as an author, and personal investment in the story, help to make this memoir readable and even edifying. The enduring struggle for the author's parents to reconnect and finally marry is, though romantic, a bit tedious, as well, and a bit ...more
Jessica
entah mengapa, saya menyukai kisah-kisah yang dituturkan. kisah dua manusia yang saling jatuh cinta namun dipisahkan akibat perang dan permusuhan. di generasi sebelumnya berkisah seseorang lah penyebab hal-hal di masa kini terjadi. penulis mengisahkannya begitu terperinci hingga terkadang membuat saya sedikit bosan. penulis sendiri menceritakan bagian masa lalu dari referensi buku, buku ayahnya, surat-surat kedua orang tuanya, foto-foto lama. menarik sekali, membuat saya terheran-heran, apa maks ...more
Bobby
I enjoyed this book in ebbs and flows, which really prolonged the length of time it took me to read this book. The tone, to me, is dry and tiresome. The passion was lacking - which if I'm reading a book about love, war and survival, I'm expecting a LOT of passion. As it is a memoir, I can understand the need for facts, quotes, and unhappy endings, but at times I forgot that the author was telling me the story of his mother and father's love.

I was excited to dive into this book and learn about R
...more
Irene
Reading this memoir, I was struck by the fact that, as a Soviet emigre, I would somehow connect with Owen's experiences. I just finished the book and realized that our experiences are not alike at all.

I was four when we left (1979) via Austria, via Italy and finally to New York. I remember nothing. I was told nothing. If I had been a little older I would have been an indoctrinated "Pionerka," a child-Commie. But that never happened. Sure, my grandfather and my parents told me the stories of wait
...more
Oldroses
"Stalin’s Children" was written as a memoir of a family but it is much more than that. It is an intimate look at life in mid-20th century Russia. The story of those years is told through the lives of three generations of the Bibikov family.

Scholarly histories can only give dry descriptions of the tumultuous years from Stalin’s purges through Perestroika. The Bibikov’s lived those events. Through them, we experience the despair of parents rounded up in a purge and sent to the Gulag, the helpless
...more
Kotinka
The first section of the book, following the childhood of the author's Russian mother, is like one of the incredible "Great Terror" stories from Orlando Figes' 'The Whisperers', but told in an even more personal, moving and gripping way. The second half tails off some what from those electric begginings - but is none the less a really good read.

After being swept along by the unprecedented and terrifying persecutions that took place in the 1930's, the book settles primarily on the author's fathe
...more
Karmen
Stalin's purges at their most intimate level. Over 30 million people were lost to his insecurity.

This book covers two generations (mother, grandfather) up to his own. Owen Matthews writes intimately but not overly emotionally of the pain visited upon his mother's family. The Russian epoch includes Owen and his finding of a Russian spouse.

The largest part of the book deals with his parents' rather improbable romance. His father, Mervyn Matthews, to escape his background, became enamored with Russ
...more
James
Heather gives such a complete synopsis of the book that I'd almost think she was the author.

Two other people mention 2 generations, actually it's quite clear there are 3,
so I wonder how closely they read the book.

The first part was interesting, the grandfather was a party man,
and has the task of building a tractor factory with almost no tools.
He and his wife were later victims of Stalin's purge.

Stalin's actions in that decade, the starvation of millions of people to show
"who is master", a
...more
Gina
I wish I could give it 3.5 stars! I did really enjoy it overall, but a few minor negative thoughts about the book keep me from giving it 4 stars...

The story follows 3 generations of a Russian/Ukrainian famly. The 2nd of these 3 generations had a very interesting story. This generation's story forms the bulk of the book. The 1st generation's story was pretty intriguing, but was told with an amount of distance that made me not really care about the character. The 3rd generation, the writer and his
...more
Kerfe
"Stalin's Children" follows the childhoods of the author's parents in Stalinist Russia and World War II England to their point of prolonged intersection at the hands of Russian authorities, their final reunion, and a bit of follow up on the result. Matthews also intertwines his own, more contemporary, Russian experiences.

By far the most compelling characters and story lie in Russia. The surrealistic early life of his mother Mila and her family are straight out of Kafka's "The Trial", and she an
...more
Vicki
A very interesting book -- a bit hard to describe briefly. The author's mother was from the Soviet Union and his father was British. They met in Russia and feel in love (1960s). He was kicked out of the country and they spent six years trying to get her out so they could get married. Eventually they succeeded and their son is one of the results. He ended up living in Russia himself -- he was a reporter -- and was actually there when Yeltsin "saved the day." The author investigated the disappeara ...more
Erin
I enjoyed this book. I like reading about this era in Russian/Soviet history. But what I especially liked about this book is that is is told from an unusual point of view -- at least in my experience. This is from the pov of the grandchild of a Stalin supporter who then fell out of favor. It reads very easily, skipping back and forth between generations, but still very clear to follow. I viewed it primarily as the story of the middle generation, but in reality it is subtitled THREE Generations. ...more
Ana Sofia
“Owen Matthews has an extraordinary story to tell, spanning three generations of his own family, all caught up with the cataclysmic events of Russia in the 20th century. He came to know Russia well while working as a journalist in Moscow in the years immediately following the collapse of the Soviet system (…)” (in http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-ent...)
It is easy to read when it comes to the language but can be very difficult to deal with the recounts, some of them profoundly moving and sour t
...more
Kelly (TheWellReadRedhead)
I won this from Goodreads a few months ago, and just finally got around to reading it. This book was a pleasant surprise for me. I don't read a ton of nonfiction, but when I do, I love when it exposes me to people or places that I know very little about. Russia is certainly one of those places, and I am particularly uninformed when it comes to Russian history. It took me a little while to figure out what direction this book was taking (is it about the author? his parents? Russia itself?)...event ...more
Nadia
Un livre intéressant qui nous fait découvrir certaines facettes du régime soviétique plus ou moins méconnues, politique et sociale. Pour donner quelques exemples, les premières purges de Staline et leurs effets sur les familles de ces hommes héros soudain déchus, la collectivisation forcée et ses horreurs, les errances des populations pendant la seconde guerre mondiale, la fascination que la politique communiste a pu exercer sur les milieux intellectuels d'après guerre, la bataille de ces couple ...more
Neiya
Cinta dan perang 3 Generasi. Yah benar, buku ini mirip sekali dengan memoar Wild swan yang sudah aku review lebih dahulu. Bedanya ini di Rusia,dan ini 3 generasi laki2 soviet yang kita tahu adalah tanah penuh darah.


Sebenarnya aku sangat menyukai buku-buku seperti ini, berbeda dengan Wild Swannya Jung chang, buku ini sarat dengan bahasa politik. Terkadang aku kebingungan menterjemahkan beberapa peristiwa dengan bahasa politik seperti itu. Buat aku ini sangat susah dinikmati. mungkin juga karena o
...more
Philip Jonsson
Stalin's children gives a good primer on the evolution of modern day Russia (of course not covering all possible aspects), beginning in the Stalin era, as portrayed by three generations of one family . It may not be the most beautifully written novel, though it is intriguingly enough to keep you reading. All in all, it is the story itself that makes the book worth reading. The fact that it is based on the real destinies of real people increases the impact on the reader. Especially for younger pe ...more
Margaret Sankey
The author, a post 1989 journalist, decided to dig into his family's history in Russia, finding that his grandfather was a victim of the 1937 Stalinist purge, grandma spent time in a gulag, and that his bickering parents had, in the 1960s, endured a Cold War version of Romeo and Juliet. This is the "one death is a tragedy" amongst the millions, allowing us to see the effect of the purges on the everyday lives of Russians for three generations. The author also came to realize that there were soli ...more
Christina
I hoped for a sweeping family history about Russia, but instead got a lot of narcissistic introspection on the part of the author. He told his family story, and it was interesting, but kept breaking it up with stories about his exploits in the seedy underside of Moscow. And frankly, I really didn't like many of the people he writes about. His family are unfaithful to their marriages and rather selfish. I do find it sad that his dad, from Wales, spent six years doing everything possible to get hi ...more
Pilvi
I finished this book by sheer will power. And I have to admit skipping a lot of pages at the end to finish this. Didn't like it at all. It was really boring and difficult to read because the writer kept writing about his own life in between telling about his parents life. And actually the part about their life together was a bit vaguely written, it didn't really describe their relationship too well. And the fact that the writer talked about Russia when he meant Soviet Union and vice versa didn't ...more
Laurel
Beautifully written book. I found it all interesting, but was drawn most into Mila and Mervyn's courtship during the Cold War era. My memory of that time evolves around an image of Kruschev pounding a shoe on a table, fallout shelter plans, and school air raid drills. Those memories appear rather juvenile compared to the dark and disturbing events that drew Mila and Mervyn together and also kept them apart. It's incredibly romantic and filled with passion, not only between a man and a woman, but ...more
Christina
Stalin's Children is unlike any book I've read. Three unique generations of lives trying to find and make a home. Its probably the most tremendous love story I've come across. I was in awe of this window Matthews installed to his family's struggles and spiritual triumphs, and of the effort he put in to trying to understand their experiences and recognizing that they ought to be shared.

Seriously this book makes me question how much I know about my parents and grandparents. I'm so happy to have e
...more
Tara
I got this book free as an advanced copy from Goodreads, and I thought it was an interesting history of how the Soviet Union/former situation in Russia affected people at a very real level. Now here's my qualms: first, it's "Ukraine" not "the Ukraine;" second, you never forget as a reader who the author is and how he's connected to the story. He's very present. It reads more like a journalistic piece than a novel, which I guess is more of what it is, being a memoir and non-fiction and all.
Valerie
This book was about life in Russia after Lenin. The author followed his mother and aunt through thier lives after Lenin - their separation from their parents and then each other, and the hardships and joys that they faced. Then refinding each other, making friends and falling in love. The author shares his memories of his parents, his aunt, and his own experiences in Russia. A very interesting look at life in Russia and the difficulties in getting out.


I won this on Goodreads!
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Owen Matthews was raised on rap music and violent video games. He is a graduate of the University of British Columbia’s creative writing program and has worked on fishing boats and in casinos all over the world. Under the name Owen Laukkanen, he writes crime thrillers acclaimed by critics and bestselling authors like Lee Child, Jonathan Kellerman, and John Lescroart. A fan of fast cars and sugary ...more
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“To survive and be happy, Russians have so much to bury, to willfully ignore. Small wonder that the intensity of their pleasures and indulgences is so sharp; it has to match the quality of their suffering.” 1 likes
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