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Summary

The Man from St Petersburg is a dark tale of family secrets and political consequences. Ken Follett's masterful storytelling brings to life the danger of a world on the brink of war.

It is just before the outbreak of World War I, and Britain must enlist the aid of Russia. Czar Nicholas' nephew is to visit London for secret naval talks with Lord Walden, who has lived in Russia and has a Russian wife, Lydia. But there are other people who are interested in the arrival of Prince Alexei: the Waldens' only daughter, Charlotte - wilful, idealistic, and with an awakening social conscience; Basil Thompson, head of the Special Branch; and, above all, Feliks Kschessinky, the ruthless Russian anarchist. No one could have foretold that Lydia should recognize Feliks or that she might put her own daughter's life at risk for his sake.

As the secret negotiations progress, the destinies of these characters become ineluctably enmeshed. And as Europe prepares for the catastrophe of war, the final private tragedy which will shatter the complacency of the Waldens is acted out.

©2018 Ken Follett (P)2018 Macmillan Digital Audio

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  • Overall
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  • JD
  • UK
  • 23-08-18

Great Read! Great Reader!

This was an enjoyable read. A book set pre WWI is not usually my novel of choice but my lack of familiarity gave me some interesting insights into both historical characters and political situations. I found it a 'page-turner' and it bowled along at a cracking pace, culminating in a great set piece which I could easily envisage because Ken Follett writes well and in exciting detail. My great-great aunt was a suffragette and so I enjoyed meeting Mrs Pankhurst, listening in on her speeches and learning about the maltreatment of the marchers and protestors. KF has us sympathising with all his characters - even the villain - because we see the world through their eyes. A satisfying ending.

The reader, Richard Armitage, was so good that I found myself binge-listening in one weekend. He has a superb voice and does some lovely accents - various cultured upper-class ones, including a youngish Winston Churchill, Cockney, Russian, Irish, Northern. Even his teenage girls sound right. I have a feeling that his reading has made the book seem better than it actually is but I shall give it 5 stars nevertheless because of the enjoyability factor.

Recommended.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Great story, excellently read

Great story, like all Ken Follett books. Well researched. Nuanced characters. Excellently read. It's great that they finally made this unabridged version.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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What a Great Story

I rattled through this story and found it hugely enjoyable and entertaining. I suspect that Ken Follett must have done a lot of research about the events leading up to the Great War and the Suffragette and the Russian anarchist movements before setting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard.) It certainly made for an informative read.

The story is set against the backdrop of the political situation in Europe prior to the First World War and the involvement of Winston Churchill in both the political struggle of the Suffragettes and also the British government's pre-war negotiations with Tsar Nicholas. An aristocrat and ex-politician, the Earl of Walden, is persuaded by Churchill to negotiate with the Tsar's favourite nephew Alexei in order to achieve an Anglo-French-Russian alliance against the re-arming German government. The Earl's wife, Lydia, is Russian and the Tsar's nephew also happens to be her cousin, so all seems set fair for an uneventful negotiation.

But Lydia has a secret past which is unknown to the Earl and their spirited daughter Charlotte develops a keen interest in Votes for Women and social justice when she witnesses a scandalous declaration of support for imprisoned Suffragettes during a debutante presentation ceremony at Court.

Lydia's past life in St.Petersburg comes to haunt her and the Walden family when Feliks, an anarchist sent to kill Alexei and provoke revolution in Russia, discovers her connection to the negotiations and her role in his personal and political misfortunes in the intervening years since they last met. Charlotte, in her burgeoning desire to bring about change within her privileged life and equality within society, becomes embroiled with Feliks and the scene is set for heartbreaking discoveries, fear of discovery, terrorist acts and a shocking conclusion

This was a well-plotted and beautifully characterised novel, told in a sympathetic and spell-binding voice. Richard Armitage, the narrator, has a fantastic range of voices for the male and female characters and it was deeply satisfying to sit back and listen to the story in huge chunks. Just lovely. Top marks on the narration.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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New recording of an early Ken Follett novel


I must admit to thinking that this was a new book, rather than a new recording of one of Follett's earlier historical thrillers.

I didn't find out until after listening and although it doesn't really matter, I was rather glad. I had thought this was a dip in form compared to others I have listened to. As it turns out, Ken Follett seems to have improved as a writer since this book.

The plot is straightforward enough : high stakes diplomacy meets family life and all hell breaks loose. It's all very enjoyable, if you take it with a slight pinch of salt. The plot does veer a little away from the realistic in my opinion but it's such a good story that it doesn't really matter. The usual Follett mix of personal drama interweaved with some of the largest events and characters in history are here.

The narration is flawless. Richard Armitage is one of the finest around and does another impressive job here.







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  • Callie
  • 17-09-18

Armitage at his (villainous 😉) best!

Richard Armitage has a knack for humanizing characters typically thought of as “bad guys” and he does so here with Felix, the antagonist. He voices all the characters, male and female, in a sympathetic and convincing manner. The result is a gripping listen where you are able to understand and empathize with all sides of the story. I will definitely listen again!

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  • Julia
  • 28-08-18

Just great!! Thank you Audible

Great story and fabulous performance by Richard Armitage. Loved it very much. Can't recommend it enough.