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‘An epic adventure story set against the most awful war in history. Ridiculously good’ Dan Snow 'The black earth was already baking and the sun was just rising when they mounted their horses and rode across the grasslands towards the horizon on fire …’ Imprisoned in the Gulags for a crime he did not commit, Benya Golden joins a penal battalion made up of Cossacks and convict ‘An epic adventure story set against the most awful war in history. Ridiculously good’ Dan Snow 'The black earth was already baking and the sun was just rising when they mounted their horses and rode across the grasslands towards the horizon on fire …’ Imprisoned in the Gulags for a crime he did not commit, Benya Golden joins a penal battalion made up of Cossacks and convicts to fight the Nazis. He enrols in the Russian cavalry, and on a hot summer day in July 1942, he and his band of brothers are sent on a desperate mission behind enemy lines. Switching between Benya's war in the grasslands of Southern Russia, and Stalin's plans in the Kremlin, between Benya's intense affair with an Italian nurse and a romance between Stalin's daughter and a journalist also on the Eastern Front, this is a sweeping story of passion, bravery and human survival where personal betrayal is a constant companion, and death just a heartbeat away. Praise for Red Sky at Noon 'Red Sky at Noon is an epic adventure story set against the backdrop of the most awful war in human history. The master historian shape-shifting into the brilliant novelist. Ridiculously good’. Dan Snow 'The gripping final instalment of the Moscow Trilogy tells of a man wrongly imprisoned in the Gulags and his fight for redemption. Meticulously researched ... In this searing tale of love and war, most moving is the redemptive relationship between a soldier and a nurse that blooms amid the brutality. An homage to the author's favourite Russian writers and the Western masterpieces of Larry McMurtry, Cormac McCarthy and Elmore Leonard, such influences pervade this atmospheric tale told in the author's distinct own voice.' - Observer 'Mythic and murderous violence in Russia…there are power-drunk Nazis and Soviet traitors, including a particularly memorable villain …Written with brio & deep knowledge of its fascinating subject matter… a deeply satisfying pageturner.' - Book of the Month, The Times 'In this third volume of The Moscow Trilogy, the fate of combatants and civilians is often harsh. With his feel for vivid and immediate drama and impressive research, the author evokes the extreme turbulence and violence impacting on individuals. Writing with passion, Montefiore makes the point that, up against the huge forces of war, the struggle for personal resolution can be tragic - but never wasted.' - Daily Mail 'The final instalment of Montefiore's loosely connected Moscow Trilogy: amidst the killing and the chaos, a group of prisoners are offered a chance of redemption on a secret mission behind enemy lines on horseback. Montefiore has a keen sense of place and an eye of unexpected details. Switching between the frontline on the Russian steppes and Stalin in the Kremlin, this is an EXCITING FAST-PACED ADVENTURE AND A LAMENT FOR LOVE IN DARK AND BRUTAL TIMES.' - Mail on Sunday 'I devoured Red Sky at Noon. A heartstopping, heartbreaking, technicolour epic. A grand homage to the Russian masters Babel & Grossman, echoes of Hemingway & Dostoevsky, and a propulsive delight that is entirely Montefiore's own. Gripping storytelling allied with intimate, unsqueamish knowledge of Russian history - a special combination.' - AD Miller, author of Snowdrops 'A GRIPPING tale ... Montefiore is BRILLIANT at depicting the BROODING MENACE ... the [penal battalions] are given increasingly risky missions, it is Benya's journey on horseback that we follow behind enemy lines in the grasslands of southern Russia ... An EPIC tale ... The language is arresting ... It's beautifully done: a WESTERN ON THE EASTERN FRONT.' - Daily Telegraph 'DISPATCHES FROM THE DAYS OF BLOOD AND THUNDER ... There are atrocities on all sides and a smidgen of love as Benya falls for a brave Italian nurse. A subplot follows the ill-starred affair between Stalin's daughter and a Jewish writer. But Benya's struggle to keep his humanity is the memorable spine of the book.' - Best of Summer reading, The Times 'Exhilarated and terrified ... Golden is plunged into a world where violent death could arrive at any moment and any pleasures that present themselves (an unexpected affair with an Italian nurse, for example) must be seized immediately. Sebag Montefiore PAINTS HIS VERBAL PICTURES of the WAR IN BOLD PRIMARY COLOURS ... SHEER ENERGY OF STORYTELLING AND GRAND SWEEP OF NARRATIVE.' - Sunday Times


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‘An epic adventure story set against the most awful war in history. Ridiculously good’ Dan Snow 'The black earth was already baking and the sun was just rising when they mounted their horses and rode across the grasslands towards the horizon on fire …’ Imprisoned in the Gulags for a crime he did not commit, Benya Golden joins a penal battalion made up of Cossacks and convict ‘An epic adventure story set against the most awful war in history. Ridiculously good’ Dan Snow 'The black earth was already baking and the sun was just rising when they mounted their horses and rode across the grasslands towards the horizon on fire …’ Imprisoned in the Gulags for a crime he did not commit, Benya Golden joins a penal battalion made up of Cossacks and convicts to fight the Nazis. He enrols in the Russian cavalry, and on a hot summer day in July 1942, he and his band of brothers are sent on a desperate mission behind enemy lines. Switching between Benya's war in the grasslands of Southern Russia, and Stalin's plans in the Kremlin, between Benya's intense affair with an Italian nurse and a romance between Stalin's daughter and a journalist also on the Eastern Front, this is a sweeping story of passion, bravery and human survival where personal betrayal is a constant companion, and death just a heartbeat away. Praise for Red Sky at Noon 'Red Sky at Noon is an epic adventure story set against the backdrop of the most awful war in human history. The master historian shape-shifting into the brilliant novelist. Ridiculously good’. Dan Snow 'The gripping final instalment of the Moscow Trilogy tells of a man wrongly imprisoned in the Gulags and his fight for redemption. Meticulously researched ... In this searing tale of love and war, most moving is the redemptive relationship between a soldier and a nurse that blooms amid the brutality. An homage to the author's favourite Russian writers and the Western masterpieces of Larry McMurtry, Cormac McCarthy and Elmore Leonard, such influences pervade this atmospheric tale told in the author's distinct own voice.' - Observer 'Mythic and murderous violence in Russia…there are power-drunk Nazis and Soviet traitors, including a particularly memorable villain …Written with brio & deep knowledge of its fascinating subject matter… a deeply satisfying pageturner.' - Book of the Month, The Times 'In this third volume of The Moscow Trilogy, the fate of combatants and civilians is often harsh. With his feel for vivid and immediate drama and impressive research, the author evokes the extreme turbulence and violence impacting on individuals. Writing with passion, Montefiore makes the point that, up against the huge forces of war, the struggle for personal resolution can be tragic - but never wasted.' - Daily Mail 'The final instalment of Montefiore's loosely connected Moscow Trilogy: amidst the killing and the chaos, a group of prisoners are offered a chance of redemption on a secret mission behind enemy lines on horseback. Montefiore has a keen sense of place and an eye of unexpected details. Switching between the frontline on the Russian steppes and Stalin in the Kremlin, this is an EXCITING FAST-PACED ADVENTURE AND A LAMENT FOR LOVE IN DARK AND BRUTAL TIMES.' - Mail on Sunday 'I devoured Red Sky at Noon. A heartstopping, heartbreaking, technicolour epic. A grand homage to the Russian masters Babel & Grossman, echoes of Hemingway & Dostoevsky, and a propulsive delight that is entirely Montefiore's own. Gripping storytelling allied with intimate, unsqueamish knowledge of Russian history - a special combination.' - AD Miller, author of Snowdrops 'A GRIPPING tale ... Montefiore is BRILLIANT at depicting the BROODING MENACE ... the [penal battalions] are given increasingly risky missions, it is Benya's journey on horseback that we follow behind enemy lines in the grasslands of southern Russia ... An EPIC tale ... The language is arresting ... It's beautifully done: a WESTERN ON THE EASTERN FRONT.' - Daily Telegraph 'DISPATCHES FROM THE DAYS OF BLOOD AND THUNDER ... There are atrocities on all sides and a smidgen of love as Benya falls for a brave Italian nurse. A subplot follows the ill-starred affair between Stalin's daughter and a Jewish writer. But Benya's struggle to keep his humanity is the memorable spine of the book.' - Best of Summer reading, The Times 'Exhilarated and terrified ... Golden is plunged into a world where violent death could arrive at any moment and any pleasures that present themselves (an unexpected affair with an Italian nurse, for example) must be seized immediately. Sebag Montefiore PAINTS HIS VERBAL PICTURES of the WAR IN BOLD PRIMARY COLOURS ... SHEER ENERGY OF STORYTELLING AND GRAND SWEEP OF NARRATIVE.' - Sunday Times

30 review for Red Sky at Noon

  1. 5 out of 5

    Angela M

    3.5 stars rounded up. If I had known that this was the third book in a trilogy, I’m not sure if I would have read it since I would have gone into it wondering what I had missed. By the time I discovered that, I was well into the story and wanted to know Benya Golden’s fate. I was glad, though to learn in the author’s note that this book could stand on its own. Benya is a Jew, a writer, more than likely a political dissident is imprisoned , but we don’t really know exactly why. He is saved from th 3.5 stars rounded up. If I had known that this was the third book in a trilogy, I’m not sure if I would have read it since I would have gone into it wondering what I had missed. By the time I discovered that, I was well into the story and wanted to know Benya Golden’s fate. I was glad, though to learn in the author’s note that this book could stand on its own. Benya is a Jew, a writer, more than likely a political dissident is imprisoned , but we don’t really know exactly why. He is saved from the death penalty by being sent to the Gulag, the labor camps under Stalin, a death penalty, though in its own way. He is “saved”again as Stalin gives some prisoners “the opportunity to redeem their sins by blood ...” when he and other prisoners join Cossacks in the sweltering summer of 1942 on what was considered a suicide mission on behalf of the motherland against the Nazis. I’ve read my fair share of books on WWII, not many on the Russian - German battles, so I had no idea there was a Cavalry. The novel spans ten days during the war, brutal days with pretty gruesome scenes. Ten days during which Benya who doesn’t think of himself as a killer learns to kill, a stark reality of the war. Two love stories blossom against the backdrop of the brutality and death providing a bit of a reprieve. The first between Benya and an Italian nurse, plausible and moving . The second between Stalin’s 16 year old daughter and a married war reporter. Although, the author in his note relates that Stalin’s daughter had an affair with an older married man two years after this novel takes place, I found it as depicted in the book, to be on the soap opera side and lacked for me the passion and depth of Benya and Fabiana’s love. I’m not sure that it added anything to the story which without it was a profound. Having said that, overall it was a fascinating look at a facet of the war that I was not totally familiar with. It was in spite of the violence and death, a story with moments that highlight friendship and family, and love . I received an advanced copy of this book from W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. through Edelweiss .

  2. 5 out of 5

    Colleen Fauchelle

    I really enjoyed this book. I havn't read a world war 2 story set in Russia before. The story is set over 10 days righ at the end of the war. For Benya Golden and his mates I am glad it was over the summer it made the story less gloomy and gave hope. It is a war story so it is violent in its telling. Benya Golden has upset Stalin in some way so he is sent to the Gulags and he is working in the mines, very hard prison life. He is saved from the mines when something happens to him and he ends up wo I really enjoyed this book. I havn't read a world war 2 story set in Russia before. The story is set over 10 days righ at the end of the war. For Benya Golden and his mates I am glad it was over the summer it made the story less gloomy and gave hope. It is a war story so it is violent in its telling. Benya Golden has upset Stalin in some way so he is sent to the Gulags and he is working in the mines, very hard prison life. He is saved from the mines when something happens to him and he ends up working at the prison hospital. The was is getting closer to Russia's captial so Starlin decides to send in a Penal Battalion including Benya and his prison mates. Only by the spilling of their blood will they be freed from thier 'sins' Silver Socks is the horse Benya gets to ride into war with and they become each others strength in such a violent time. I saw Silver Socks as one of the main characters. Such an amazing creature to have by Benya's side. This is the third book in a series, apart from not quite understanding why Benya was being sent to the Gulags. it was ok to read it on it's own. This was a book club choice which is why I read it. I would like to go back and read the other two books at some stage. Because I enjoyed the way the story was written and easy for me to follow along. I would recomend this story, it was a intresting war story and gave some good insights.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mandy

    I don’t often give up on books, especially those that NetGalley kindly let me have for review, but I couldn’t go on with this one. Simon Sebag Montefiore is a renowned non-fiction writer and I have thoroughly enjoyed his books of biography and history. But he is no novelist and I found this one unreadable. He’s done his research, certainly, but research alone does not a novel make. His style is so clichéd, his characters so stereotyped with no character development and his dialogue so inauthenti I don’t often give up on books, especially those that NetGalley kindly let me have for review, but I couldn’t go on with this one. Simon Sebag Montefiore is a renowned non-fiction writer and I have thoroughly enjoyed his books of biography and history. But he is no novelist and I found this one unreadable. He’s done his research, certainly, but research alone does not a novel make. His style is so clichéd, his characters so stereotyped with no character development and his dialogue so inauthentic that even though his subject matter is fascinating (especially as I have recently been studying the plight of the Cossacks during and after WWII) this poorly written novel had nothing to offer me. All summed up for me by some of the characters constantly spouting “Just saying….” An anachronism too far…..

  4. 4 out of 5

    RG

    Historical aspects were interesting but found the dialogue and characters overly dramatic which distracted me from the time period.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Helio

    The book was in ten sections, one for each of ten days, then an Epilogue. Day One rated only a 2 out of 5 and I was ready to mark it as DNF. Then the story picked up and Days 2 & 3 merited a 3 out 5 as the characters became more alive and the plot diversified. Days 4, 5 + 6 the story stayed a steady 4 out 5 pace as the cossack training kicked in for attacking German-Italian lines of the Eastern Front. Then for Days 7 & 8 the the plot galloped at a 5 out of 5 rating as I tore through the pages of The book was in ten sections, one for each of ten days, then an Epilogue. Day One rated only a 2 out of 5 and I was ready to mark it as DNF. Then the story picked up and Days 2 & 3 merited a 3 out 5 as the characters became more alive and the plot diversified. Days 4, 5 + 6 the story stayed a steady 4 out 5 pace as the cossack training kicked in for attacking German-Italian lines of the Eastern Front. Then for Days 7 & 8 the the plot galloped at a 5 out of 5 rating as I tore through the pages of the love story. Days 9 & 10 settled back into a trot of 4 out of 5 with the settings shifting from horses to trains, hospitals and Moscow intrigues. I didn't know what to make of the Epilogue which tied up loose ends but not convincingly. Millions died at the Battle of Stalingrad and millions more in Russia account the war. The telling of a few characters involvement gives pause to the great tradgedy.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Barry Smirnoff

    I enjoyed this book. First of all, it is right up my alley. This is book 3 of the "Moscow Trilogy", which begins with Sashenka, then came One Night In Winter, and now Red Sky at Noon. Montefiore states that each book stands on its own, but some of the characters are in the other books. Red Sky is the story of Benya Golden, just before and during the second year of World War II in the Soviet Union. Golden is a Jewish Communist intellectual who begins the story in the Gulag. After having survived I enjoyed this book. First of all, it is right up my alley. This is book 3 of the "Moscow Trilogy", which begins with Sashenka, then came One Night In Winter, and now Red Sky at Noon. Montefiore states that each book stands on its own, but some of the characters are in the other books. Red Sky is the story of Benya Golden, just before and during the second year of World War II in the Soviet Union. Golden is a Jewish Communist intellectual who begins the story in the Gulag. After having survived the Stalin Purges of the late 30's, his death sentence is commuted to 30 years hard labor in the gold mines of Magadan in the Siberian far East. When Hitler invades his Soviet ally, Golden sees a way out of the Gulag. He volunteers for a Punishment Battalion made up of criminals, cowards, and zeks, the residents of Gulag. He is put into a cavalry unit and trained to ride, shoot and charge with swords. He is given a horse to bond with and they are sent to the Stalingrad Front in the summer of 1942. They are told that they came win their freedom by spilling their own blood in combat. The story involves an attack behind the Axis lines and a mission to assassinate the leader of a group of traitors, who are attached to an Eisazgruppen murdering Jews and civilians on the Nazi occupied Steppe. Golden is a fish out of water as a Jew, a political, and city boy. He learns how to fight with his cossack comrades and fights and bleeds with them. Many are killed and the story has a brief love affair as Golden falls for a recently widowed Italian nurse. Montefiore has written many books of Russian history along with the 3 Russian novels. Maybe he will decide to continue the saga into the post-war years and the Golden story will continue. If not, I wish Benya the best of luck. He has suffered enough and deserves to finish out his life with some modicum of normality and maybe some happiness?

  7. 5 out of 5

    Raughley Nuzzi

    This book tries really hard to be a rousing Red Cavalry-style story but falls short in a number of ways. Simon Sebag Montefiore has written several good books and novels and his roots as a journalist and historian show throughout. Full disclosure, I listened to this as an audiobook and the narrator did zero research on pronunciations of Russian and Ukrainian names, which flavors my review. There were a lot of obnoxious details in this novel that seemed to come from Montefiore's historic research. This book tries really hard to be a rousing Red Cavalry-style story but falls short in a number of ways. Simon Sebag Montefiore has written several good books and novels and his roots as a journalist and historian show throughout. Full disclosure, I listened to this as an audiobook and the narrator did zero research on pronunciations of Russian and Ukrainian names, which flavors my review. There were a lot of obnoxious details in this novel that seemed to come from Montefiore's historic research. Soldiers regularly referred to military hardware by model and serial numbers in ways that seemed unrealistic for a group of peasant cossacks. Characters seem capable of recognizing the most nuanced dialect differences between tiny ethnic groups of the South Caucasus. There's an overwrought hasty love story that boringly raises the stakes. While the story had some interesting beats and takes place in an interesting microcosm of WWII that is often overlooked in the era of tank and plane warfare, it is overall forgettable and doesn't achieve the aspirational heights it reaches for.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Liviu

    while I really liked the author's previous two books from the "Moscow trilogy" (Sashenka and One Night in Winter), I was a little mixed on this one for two reasons - chronologically being a middle book, we know how things will turn out for the main character (Benya Golden) so there is a lack of suspense in his adventures in the gulag, steppe and afterwards; also the romantic life of Stalin's daughter is really a bit out of place in this novel and while the author valiantly connects the two stori while I really liked the author's previous two books from the "Moscow trilogy" (Sashenka and One Night in Winter), I was a little mixed on this one for two reasons - chronologically being a middle book, we know how things will turn out for the main character (Benya Golden) so there is a lack of suspense in his adventures in the gulag, steppe and afterwards; also the romantic life of Stalin's daughter is really a bit out of place in this novel and while the author valiantly connects the two stories (the journalist in question is Jewish and friend of Benya, meets him at the front and later etc), they don't really cohere well together - having only the interludes with Stalin, the politrucs and the generals which connect much better with the main war story would have been enough imho this being said, the book has a lot of gripping moments and the steppe adventure still made me keep turning the pages to see what happens next

  9. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    Third in his 'Moscow' trilogy, Montefiore constructs a riveting read. It is 1942, & innocent writer Benya Golden is barely surviving hard labour in Stalin's Gulags. Offered redemption, he joins a penal battalion of desperado Cossack cavalry to fight Nazi and Italian forces near Stalingrad. Superb characterisation, huge narrative surprises, real danger and a The Steppes you can smell and feel as well as see, combine powerfully. And we get a glimpse of life in The Kremlin, and the dangerous, secre Third in his 'Moscow' trilogy, Montefiore constructs a riveting read. It is 1942, & innocent writer Benya Golden is barely surviving hard labour in Stalin's Gulags. Offered redemption, he joins a penal battalion of desperado Cossack cavalry to fight Nazi and Italian forces near Stalingrad. Superb characterisation, huge narrative surprises, real danger and a The Steppes you can smell and feel as well as see, combine powerfully. And we get a glimpse of life in The Kremlin, and the dangerous, secret passion of Svetlana, Stalin's impulsive teenage daughter.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Dave

    WOW TH BOOK WAS LIKE A TRAINWRECK I COULD NOT KEEP MY EYES OFF OF. I COULD NOT STOPE READING IT BECAUSE I WANTED TO SEE WHERE THINGS WOULD GO NEXT IN SOME KIND OF WEIRD PLOT TWIST. STRANGELY I DID FINISH IT, AND HAVE TALKED ABOUT IT. SO I DID ENJOY IT

  11. 5 out of 5

    Keith Currie

    The story of the Penal Battalions of the Soviet Army during the Second World War is a fascinating one, and this novel constructed around one such battalion, a Cossack cavalry brigade used to hold up German advances towards Stalingrad and the river Don, tells an enthralling and exciting tale. Only ‘normal’ criminals such as murderers, rapists and cannibals should have been eligible for recruitment to such battalions, but the political prisoner, Benya Golden, a Jewish writer, manages to inveigle h The story of the Penal Battalions of the Soviet Army during the Second World War is a fascinating one, and this novel constructed around one such battalion, a Cossack cavalry brigade used to hold up German advances towards Stalingrad and the river Don, tells an enthralling and exciting tale. Only ‘normal’ criminals such as murderers, rapists and cannibals should have been eligible for recruitment to such battalions, but the political prisoner, Benya Golden, a Jewish writer, manages to inveigle his way into a brigade. Their assaults upon the Germans are intended to be suicidal, redemption to be earned through the spilling of blood, but Benya’s section has the great good luck to move against Italians and unlike most of their comrades survive the assault. What to do then? They were forbidden to retreat and there was no plan for them, as they were not expected to survive the first attack. Their decision is to attack and kill Russian traitors fighting for the Germans and to earn their redemption that way. The story that follows is high adventure, combined with Benya’s romance with an Italian nurse, combined with the deeper strategic intrigue of Stalin’s planning – an exciting, dramatic and intelligent mix. The characterisation in the book is a real strength, from the fictional such as Benya to those who really lived such as Stalin himself and his intensely intelligent daughter Svetlana. Although this is the third in a series of ‘Stalin’ novels, I would emphasise that it can be read without reference to the others – in fact I have not yet read the others, but will hasten to do so! Apart from the intricate plotting, the sentence of death held over all the soldiers and especially Benya adds tension to the story right to its finish. This is a wonderful read, so well written and deeply satisfying to the reader.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Valentina Ch

    Excellent written, just like all historical novels by Simon Montefiore. Not as emotional and touching as Sashenka but still loved every page.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Gary

    What a well-paced, well-written story. It's the second of Montefiore's "Moscow Trilogy" I've read, and I'm eager to read the last. What a well-paced, well-written story. It's the second of Montefiore's "Moscow Trilogy" I've read, and I'm eager to read the last.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Wael EL Gabas

    I really wish that I could give his boon more than just five stars, it is a brilliant litterature work from all aspects, the characters are well made and full of life, the plot is very good and interesting and very accurate in it is covering to the historian details, once you start reading this, you can not put it down until you are finish.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Helen

    This is the third in Simon Sebag Montefiore’s Moscow trilogy. I have read the second one, One Night in Winter, but not the first, Sashenka; the books are only loosely connected and it’s not essential to read all three in order. Montefiore is better known as a historian and writer of non-fiction, but these three books are fictional – although based on real events from Russian history. Red Sky at Noon tells the story of Benya Golden, a Jewish writer and former teacher who, in 1940, is given the dea This is the third in Simon Sebag Montefiore’s Moscow trilogy. I have read the second one, One Night in Winter, but not the first, Sashenka; the books are only loosely connected and it’s not essential to read all three in order. Montefiore is better known as a historian and writer of non-fiction, but these three books are fictional – although based on real events from Russian history. Red Sky at Noon tells the story of Benya Golden, a Jewish writer and former teacher who, in 1940, is given the death sentence for “terrorism, conspiracy to murder Comrades Stalin, Molotov, Kaganovich and Satinov, and membership of a counter-revolutionary Trotskyite group”. At the last minute Benya is given a reprieve and instead of being executed he is exiled to the Gulag of Kolyma and sentenced to ten years’ hard labour in the gold mines. Life in the camp is harsh and miserable, so when a chance comes two years later to join a penal battalion (a shtrafbat) formed to fight the Germans, Benya is quick to volunteer. The reward will be the opportunity to win redemption by the shedding of blood – either his own or the enemy’s. The rest of the novel follows the adventures of Benya, his beloved horse Silver Socks and the assorted group of murderers, Cossack gangsters and fellow political prisoners who fight alongside him in the Soviet cavalry. Together they undertake dangerous missions behind enemy lines, facing death, capture or betrayal – or all three – and for Benya, there is also a romance when he meets a widowed Italian nurse, Fabiana. Of course, with Russia and Italy on opposite sides of the war, it’s clear from the beginning that their love affair is unlikely to run smoothly. With so much happening and with such an action-packed plot and interesting historical setting, this could have been a wonderful novel, filled with drama, romance and excitement. However, I think Montefiore is probably a better historian than he is a novelist; although I have no doubts that he knows his Russian history, he never quite managed to bring the characters and events in this novel to life. The dialogue didn’t feel entirely convincing and there were only a few moments in the whole book when I felt any real emotional connection to Benya or the other characters, despite the horrors of war that were being described. I remember having similar thoughts about One Night in Winter, which was a more enjoyable novel in my opinion, but another one which made little emotional impact. I haven’t mentioned yet that there is another thread to the novel, involving Svetlana Stalina. As Stalin’s daughter, sixteen-year-old Svetlana is a lonely and isolated figure, who has experienced little in the way of love and friendship as people are afraid to get too close because of who her father is. Svetlana’s story doesn’t really have anything to do with Benya’s, but it offers insights into life in the Stalin household and does add another layer to the novel. I’m not sure if I would want to read more of Montefiore’s fiction – although Sashenka does still sound tempting – but I’m curious to know what his non-fiction is like.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Vladislava

    I greatly enjoyed this book, especially the duality aspect of war - how all the events are so surreal, yet very realistic.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Roy Kelley

    An outstanding Trilogy!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Rajeev

    Historical fiction, especially if well researched always turn out to be a treat to read. Montefiore’s Red Sky at Noon is a piece of well-researched work set towards the end of WWII on the steppes of Russia. The war for Stalingrad is widely accepted to be one of the most bloody of all battles in modern warfare and this event forms the backdrop of the major part of this book. The author mentions in the epilogue that a few parts of the book are based on the historical figures and events of the time Historical fiction, especially if well researched always turn out to be a treat to read. Montefiore’s Red Sky at Noon is a piece of well-researched work set towards the end of WWII on the steppes of Russia. The war for Stalingrad is widely accepted to be one of the most bloody of all battles in modern warfare and this event forms the backdrop of the major part of this book. The author mentions in the epilogue that a few parts of the book are based on the historical figures and events of the time and a large part is a pure fiction. As long as such a work is well researched, the events mentioned always do sound plausible since they are closely intertwined with actual historical events. Benya Golden is a Jewish author, who finds himself on the wrong side of the law in Russia which is under the brutal dictatorship of Josef Stalin. Benya finds himself confined to the fearsome Gulags on trumped-up charges of an assassination attempt on Stalin himself. He is made to work in the mines in life-sapping conditions. The Axis powers under Hitler was on a rampage on Russia’s western front. The combined German and Italian assault were happening on the industrial city of Stalingrad, which was on the verge of falling to the Axis powers. At this point Stalin comes up with a decree wherein he announces redemption for all political prisoners trapped in the Gulags, provided they are ready to fight to the finish on the war front. It was a catch 22 situation for these unfortunate souls, who were even otherwise destined to die in the harsh conditions of the prison camps. These people were then organized into the so-called Penal battalions and thrown against the advancing Nazis as nothing more than cannon fodder. Benya finds himself in a cavalry charge against the Italians. It is hard to believe that horse-mounted cavalry was extensively used in WWII especially in Europe. Benya, by the force of circumstances, transforms from being a soft-spoken, erudite and a physically weak person into something of a brave heart on the battlefield. This transformation is so evident through the course of the narrative. Unfortunately, Benya and his band of fellow convicts find themselves on the wrong side of the battle. They are captured by the Italians. Benya then manages to befriend an Italian nurse. He manages to flee the Italians with her help. The book has another plotline that runs alongside the narrative on Benya, which is an extremely enjoyable account build around the formidable Stalin himself. The author takes a peek into the personal life of Stalin, including the suicide of his wife and the wantonness of his son. More endearing is the account of his daughter, Svetlana Stalina, who is a schoolgirl but finds herself in love with a 40-year-old journalist. Of course, the consequences of falling in love with the daughter of the dictator does not prove to be pleasant for the journalist. The story is enjoyable and gripping. It does unfold like a movie featuring the wide-open landscapes of the steppes of Russia, with an assortment of interesting characters thrown in. The singular thought that came to my mind was that this narrative would make a wonderful telling on the large screen provided it is well scripted

  19. 5 out of 5

    Tony Nielsen

    The setting for Simon Sebag Montefiore's "Red Sky at Noon" is the brutal war between German and Italian forces against their Russian opponents in 1942. Montefiore has constructed a superb story around the exploits of Benya Golden, a Russian writer, who was sent to the Gulag's by Stalin's regime, for a crime he didn't commit. Life is barely survivable in the work camp at Madyak especially as Benya is really too old for the hard labour. He is imprisoned at the direct orders of Stalin himself and i The setting for Simon Sebag Montefiore's "Red Sky at Noon" is the brutal war between German and Italian forces against their Russian opponents in 1942. Montefiore has constructed a superb story around the exploits of Benya Golden, a Russian writer, who was sent to the Gulag's by Stalin's regime, for a crime he didn't commit. Life is barely survivable in the work camp at Madyak especially as Benya is really too old for the hard labour. He is imprisoned at the direct orders of Stalin himself and is therefore surprised when he receives a phone call from the big guy offering the opportunity of redemption, if he joins a special Cossack cavalry brigade made up of prisoners like himself. The story takes us to the battlefields close to Stalingrad where the Russians are barely holding out against the might of a combined German and Italian advance. Perhaps surprisingly Benya's small cavalry unit breaks through the enemy lines but then find themselves isolated from their Russian comrades. There are a number of interesting and thought provoking sidelines to main story, which is Benya's survival from the threat of the battlefield or returning to the Russian side of the lines and likely execution for their retreat. There's a poignant love story between Benya and a nurse called Fabiana which is threaded through the action, and a close relationship between Benya and his horse White Sox. Further the story also takes in life at the top table, with Stalin himself and also the immature actions of his daughter Svetlana who attempts an assignation with another writer despite the fact that she's only sixteen. Stalin is not pleased when he finds out. Red Sky at Noon is a very satisfying read about a period in history that is seldom dealt with. Highly recommended.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Candace

    "Red Sky at Noon" is the third book in Simon Sebag Montefiore's Moscow Trilogy, which begins with the terrific "Sashenka" and ends with "Red Sky at Noon." Of these, the first novel is by far the best, the second a disappointment, but the third book, this one, is somewhere in between. It covers a lesser known event in Soviet history when Stalin released prisoners from the Gulag to fight in penal battalions during World War II. Writer Benya Golden has been working in a mine in his particular Gulag "Red Sky at Noon" is the third book in Simon Sebag Montefiore's Moscow Trilogy, which begins with the terrific "Sashenka" and ends with "Red Sky at Noon." Of these, the first novel is by far the best, the second a disappointment, but the third book, this one, is somewhere in between. It covers a lesser known event in Soviet history when Stalin released prisoners from the Gulag to fight in penal battalions during World War II. Writer Benya Golden has been working in a mine in his particular Gulag and jumps at the chance to serve his country, survive his sentence, anything, anything. The brutal whimsicality of the Soviet system is again on display, but there is a chance that it will work out for Benya. Sequentially, this book falls in the middle of the story, and there's no reason to read them in order. Not wanting to toss spoilers in to the mix, you may know what happens to Benya in "One Night In Winter", but go along anyway. "Red Sky" lacks the emotional charge of "Sashenka" but it is a still a gripping story with characters who grow on you. It's amazing that between one Terror or another, there were any Soviets left to fight in WWII and survive into the further horrors of the late '40s and early '50s. Montefiore does an excellent job of personalizing the history and showing the human cost of these programs.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    This is the third book in the trilogy, though you do not need to read the previous two, as this is a separate story entirely. In fact, I've never read the others either. This book is set in Russia in World War Two and reminds me a lot of Life and Fate by Vassily Grossman, in its style and diction, although the setting here is narrower. The plot focusses on Benya Golden, a political prisoner in Siberia at the start of the war. He's released and rapidly enlisted into a penal battalion, a new army dr This is the third book in the trilogy, though you do not need to read the previous two, as this is a separate story entirely. In fact, I've never read the others either. This book is set in Russia in World War Two and reminds me a lot of Life and Fate by Vassily Grossman, in its style and diction, although the setting here is narrower. The plot focusses on Benya Golden, a political prisoner in Siberia at the start of the war. He's released and rapidly enlisted into a penal battalion, a new army dreamed up by Stalin composed of criminals, to fight low-odds battles. If they survive, they could redeem their crimes in battle. The novel spans 10 days, as Golden as his group of misfits are sent behind enemy lines in a dangerous mission in the Steppes outside Stalingrad to assassinate a notorious partisan killer. There he meets an Italian nurse, working with the invading Germans, and, of course, they fall in love. The setting at times switches to Moscow and Stalin's headquarters and residence and we meet his daughter Svetlana who has a crush on a Red Army war correspondent. It's a beautifully crafted novel. Will have to pick the other two in the series up now.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Gail

    This was an interesting work of fiction set over 10 days in 1942 when the Germans were advancing on Stalingrad. The historical facts showing how barbaric war can be and the terror and psychological damage suffered by those who worked in the Gulags was thought provoking. The atrocities inflicted by the German Nazis and Russians during the second world war are also captured by Montefiore and whilst violent and unpleasant, they make you aware of what was happening during the Battle of Stalingrad - This was an interesting work of fiction set over 10 days in 1942 when the Germans were advancing on Stalingrad. The historical facts showing how barbaric war can be and the terror and psychological damage suffered by those who worked in the Gulags was thought provoking. The atrocities inflicted by the German Nazis and Russians during the second world war are also captured by Montefiore and whilst violent and unpleasant, they make you aware of what was happening during the Battle of Stalingrad - something I knew little about. The historical facts are combined with two fictional love affairs; one between Benya Golden a Jewish man who has been imprisoned in the Gulag but is offered redemption if he joins the Cossacks and sheds blood and a young Italian woman and the other between Stalin's daughter Svetlana and a married journalist, Lev Shapiro. You cannot help but sympathise for the desperate situations they each find themselves in and the tragic endings they undergo - one of the misfortunes of war.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Belinda

    I have to say, I initially picked up this book because of beautiful cover, but was delighted to learn it was full of incredible substance. This book opened with a scene where calvary prepared their horses, and as you may know, Cossacks (only one small element of the larger story) are famously adept horsemen. This was the first book in a long time that I felt the writer had some meaningful experience with horses, each moment felt incredibly authentic and full of life. While reading the first few I have to say, I initially picked up this book because of beautiful cover, but was delighted to learn it was full of incredible substance. This book opened with a scene where calvary prepared their horses, and as you may know, Cossacks (only one small element of the larger story) are famously adept horsemen. This was the first book in a long time that I felt the writer had some meaningful experience with horses, each moment felt incredibly authentic and full of life. While reading the first few pages I literally gave a huge sigh of satisfaction, the writing was THAT good. Looking though the lens of Russia's side in World War II was a new experience for me, and author Simon Montefiore made it a great one. I am only sorry I found out this was the third in a series after starting the book, although it certainly works well as a stand alone. To see some of my reviews and other bookish stuff I have videos posted on Youtube. Check them out on my channel BELINDAS BOOK CLUB VLOG. Here is one to get you started: https://youtu.be/3EA2-wqebFc

  24. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    Montefiore's trilogy got my 2019 reading off to a great start. "Red Sky at Noon" is the third published in the series, but actually would be book 2 if reading in order of the time period presented. I feel like some of the dramatic tension was robbed having already read "One Night In Winter", because the fate of one of the main characters in "Red Sky" was revealed in that that book. Since I already knew what would become of our protagonist, I wasn't exactly on the edge of my seat. But this was st Montefiore's trilogy got my 2019 reading off to a great start. "Red Sky at Noon" is the third published in the series, but actually would be book 2 if reading in order of the time period presented. I feel like some of the dramatic tension was robbed having already read "One Night In Winter", because the fate of one of the main characters in "Red Sky" was revealed in that that book. Since I already knew what would become of our protagonist, I wasn't exactly on the edge of my seat. But this was still an interesting and satisfying war novel set in the unusual location (unusual for popular WWII fiction) of Russia's southern steppe, and involving Stalin's use of Gulag prisoners to former a penal battalion to push back Hitler's invasion of Stalingrad. Essentially a suicide mission, the prisoners know this is their only hope of redemption and their last desperate chance for freedom. There is a bit of romance shoehorned into the narrative, but ultimately it pays off in showing how precious life can be for people who don't have much time left to live it.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Robert Hepple

    First published in 2017, 'Red Sky at Noon' is set in WW2 in 1942, at the time of the German summer offensive on the Eastern Front as it closed in on Stalingrad. The main character, Benya Golden, is a Russian Jew and academic who, having previously been sentenced to serve time in a Gulag, is one of a number given a chance of redemption by serving in a Cossack penal battalion. The main story is part adventure, part love story, and even part domestic melodrama - in that order of precedence. As the First published in 2017, 'Red Sky at Noon' is set in WW2 in 1942, at the time of the German summer offensive on the Eastern Front as it closed in on Stalingrad. The main character, Benya Golden, is a Russian Jew and academic who, having previously been sentenced to serve time in a Gulag, is one of a number given a chance of redemption by serving in a Cossack penal battalion. The main story is part adventure, part love story, and even part domestic melodrama - in that order of precedence. As the story is set on the Eastern front in WW2, the adventure element is often especially brutal, whilst the love story element is weak and full of coincidences and plot holes whilst the domestic melodrama, featuring Stalin's lovesick teenage daughter, is superfluous. In fact, all of the scenes with Stalin in Moscow seem as if they are there just to inject a few genuine historical characters into a story dominated by fictional characters. Okay, but my belief that well researched WW2 fact is always more interesting than WW2 fiction still stands.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jo-anne Atkinson

    Benya Golden, a Jewish writer, has been imprisoned in a Gulag. Rotting away he is rescued by a group of gangsters and given privileges that keep him alive but he realises that he will never escape. A chance appears in the form of the opportunity to join a Cossack band in the Army fighting the Nazis as they approach Stalingrad, a chance for redemption or death. Meanwhile an erstwhile friend of his is conducting a dangerous and secret correspondence with Stalin's teenage daughter. As Benya falls i Benya Golden, a Jewish writer, has been imprisoned in a Gulag. Rotting away he is rescued by a group of gangsters and given privileges that keep him alive but he realises that he will never escape. A chance appears in the form of the opportunity to join a Cossack band in the Army fighting the Nazis as they approach Stalingrad, a chance for redemption or death. Meanwhile an erstwhile friend of his is conducting a dangerous and secret correspondence with Stalin's teenage daughter. As Benya falls in love with an Italian nurse he is charged with a mission that could change his life. This is a complex but gripping story. Benya is a man placed in an impossible situation and he tries the best he can to get out of it. The romance is handled sensitively and writing about the horses is wonderful. Whilst visceral in parts when describing battle, this is also a very gentle tale.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Annie

    It’s a shame that this book is the conclusion to Simon Sebag Montefiore’s Russian trilogy. Red Sky at Noon, while it has an interesting premise, is laden with a ludicrous romance plot and ahistorical scenes featuring Josef Stalin and Svetlana Stalina that made it hard for me to take the book seriously. I was so excited about this book since I’m a sucker for books about the Red Army during World War II and novels set in Russia before the end of the world in general. If this book had left out the It’s a shame that this book is the conclusion to Simon Sebag Montefiore’s Russian trilogy. Red Sky at Noon, while it has an interesting premise, is laden with a ludicrous romance plot and ahistorical scenes featuring Josef Stalin and Svetlana Stalina that made it hard for me to take the book seriously. I was so excited about this book since I’m a sucker for books about the Red Army during World War II and novels set in Russia before the end of the world in general. If this book had left out the subplots and focused on its protagonist, Benya Golden, I think it would have been an excellent read. Instead, it’s a melodramatic mess... Read the rest of my review at A Bookish Type. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley for review consideration.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Evanne Lindley

    I checked this book out because it had made it to the “Hot New Fiction” table at Parnassus (my local indie book store). I feel like there’s at least one new WWII book every year that makes the best seller list and does the rounds, but this was one is different in that it’s set on the Russian frontier. Set in a different landscape and intensified by the tension between the fear of both the Soviet government and the Nazis knocking at the door, this is definitely a different breed. The prose are goo I checked this book out because it had made it to the “Hot New Fiction” table at Parnassus (my local indie book store). I feel like there’s at least one new WWII book every year that makes the best seller list and does the rounds, but this was one is different in that it’s set on the Russian frontier. Set in a different landscape and intensified by the tension between the fear of both the Soviet government and the Nazis knocking at the door, this is definitely a different breed. The prose are good, but the dialogue can feel a bit disingenuous. If you’re nitpicky about dialogue, it might bug you. The characters can also be idiotically romantic, but that’s not necessarily unrealistic. Personally, I was able to see past both the dialogue and the romanticism. It really is a strong plot and an engrossing story. If you have any interest in Russia this is definitely a good one to pick up!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Helen

    Fast moving plot, but the devil is in the details. Incongruous details sometimes, like having the Russians drinking coffee before the battle (coffee always being very "foreign" and not grown in the country - except maybe in some remote parts of Georgia). Like comparing one of the heroes to Bette Davis in a conversation - while the story is about an extremely isolated and puritan society where the name of Bette Davis would not have been known. While the list of sources / interviews / memoirs look Fast moving plot, but the devil is in the details. Incongruous details sometimes, like having the Russians drinking coffee before the battle (coffee always being very "foreign" and not grown in the country - except maybe in some remote parts of Georgia). Like comparing one of the heroes to Bette Davis in a conversation - while the story is about an extremely isolated and puritan society where the name of Bette Davis would not have been known. While the list of sources / interviews / memoirs looks impressive, the book would benefit from a review by one of the contemporaries who would easily spot these gaffes. In my opinion, Montefiore's non-fiction works, "Jerusalem: The Biography" and "The Romanovs 1613-1918" truly shine, while his Russian Trilogy books ("Sashenka", "One Night in Winter" and "Red Sky at Noon") are plagued by similar detail errors.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sally Shah

    I enjoyed this book. There were some coincidences that seemed unlikely. I’ve read a number of books about the Gulags and the suppression of the intelligentsia in the late 1930s, but I hadn’t read much about the cavalry. I have read Sholokhov’s two novels about the Don region, but a long time ago. I found the part about the criminal gangs in the Gulag interesting. I hadn’t realized that the Italians formed part of the army advancing on Stalingrad and I hadn’t known about the opportunity to redeem I enjoyed this book. There were some coincidences that seemed unlikely. I’ve read a number of books about the Gulags and the suppression of the intelligentsia in the late 1930s, but I hadn’t read much about the cavalry. I have read Sholokhov’s two novels about the Don region, but a long time ago. I found the part about the criminal gangs in the Gulag interesting. I hadn’t realized that the Italians formed part of the army advancing on Stalingrad and I hadn’t known about the opportunity to redeem oneself by fighting for the Motherland. The main characters were well drawn and credible. I found the affair between Shetland and the reporter hard to take. It was very much a teenage affair in her side. And what was he thinking? I had read the second volume of the trilogy but not the first. This novel did stand alone.

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