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The Politics of Love: Review of Dinner with the Dissidents by John Tesarsch

August 28, 2018

It’s 1970 in Soviet Russia, and people are beginning to question the communist regime. The Kremlin is struggling to quell the dissidence, and Alexander Solzhenitsyn is only making matters worse.

Although censored in his home country, Alexander is lauded in the west for exposing the underbelly of communism. A Nobel laureate, he is rumoured to now be working on his most devastating piece of writing yet – one that will, no doubt, strengthen the dissent, inflame opposition and weaken the Soviet regime.

Taking no chances, the KGB turns to Leonid Krasnov, an aspiring young writer. They promise to make Leonid Moscow’s next literary star if he can successfully infiltrate Alexander’s inner circle and uncover what the dissident author is hiding. Fuelled by his dreams of being a well-known author, Leonid complies – but it isn’t long before he falls deeply in love with Klara, a dissident musician – and his allegiances begin to waver. But there is no turning back for Leonid now – he is in too deep, enmeshed in a plot that is more sinister and political than he ever could have imagined…

Many years later, Leonid now lives as a recluse in Canberra under a fictitious name. Still haunted by the demons of his past, he seeks one last, desperate chance to make amends…but will the troubled writer ever rid himself of guilt and find his own happy ending?

Dinner with the Dissidents by John Tesarsch is a remarkable, layered piece of historical fiction. Impeccably researched, the book transports you to a different time and place, painting an intimate and authentic picture of life and politics in 1970’s Russia. This book achieves what all great historical fiction sets out to do – enlighten and entertain. It does both, royally.

Narrated from the perspective of Leonid the writer, the novel’s timeline shifts between past and present, creating a plot that is gripping and masterfully composed. It is wonderful to follow a character as they age – to see them grow, and to join them on such a long and gruelling journey. A strong attachment to Leonid develops, enhancing the reading experience and making it more evocative.

With the main character, Leonid, a writer, the prose in the book is certainly evolved, often poetic and incredibly immersive. It’s a gripping read, with Leonid’s visceral descriptions adding to the personal and political tensions throughout the novel.

If you are a fan of historical fiction – the kind that makes you think and feel – and enjoy a riveting tale of politics and love, then we highly recommend Dinner with the Dissidents.

About the Author:

John Tesarsch is the author of the acclaimed novels The Philanthropist and The Last Will and Testament of Henry Hoffman. He has degrees in music and law, and pursued a career as a cellist in Vienna before he turned to writing. After travelling widely, John returned to Australia, where he lives with his wife and two children. He is also a barrister, and he lectures in law at the University of Melbourne. Dinner with the Dissidents is his third novel.

Purchase a copy of Dinner with the Dissidents here 


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