Book Review: Follow two spy sisters in this Cold War-era thriller | Entertainment

By DAVID ARNDT FOR THE FREE LANCE–STAR

Vera and Marya are sisters in Soviet Russia, taught by their father as children to admire the communist ideal. Marya, the youngest of the siblings, respects her father’s beliefs and paves the way to becoming a talented linguist for the communist party. Vera, on the other hand, personifies these notions, embracing them and becoming a prominent member of the secretive and dangerous KGB; for her, safety and the importance of the party will always come before the selfish individual.

The couple grew up and participated in World War II, eventually finding themselves stationed together in Berlin in 1947, where western forces were vying for control from Germany to the Soviet Union. This is the setting for “The Soviet Sisters” by Anika Scott.

In Berlin, Marya found herself engaged in a clandestine romance with a British civil servant. Regularly visiting his luxurious home, his casual feelings turn into serious emotional bonds. She slowly comes to reveal more and more of her past and her work for the Soviets. Already torn between love for a foreigner and devotion to her homeland, Marya’s life becomes even more complicated when Vera appears without warning in Berlin. Vera comes to dominate her sister’s life, rearranging her living arrangements, reminding her of her duties to her country, and eventually forcing her to spy on her British lover. Events spiral out of control and Marya finds herself imprisoned in a Siberian labor camp years later because of her job.

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Vera’s story is told opposite the time period; It’s 1956 and, as a prominent Communist Party official, Vera has become obsessed with investigating how her sister was imprisoned, but more importantly, proving her innocence and securing her release. Her search for government documents brings her back to her own perspective on the events of 1947 and her own questionable decisions that unfolded then. Her investigation reveals the truth about why her sister was sent into exile.

“The Soviet Sisters” is a story about the strength of family ties and the importance of civic duty in the eyes of the government. Marya and Vera are sisters on opposite ends of the coin, but they manage to come together to protect each other in the end. This novel is a story of brotherly love overcoming the cold and sterile machinations of an authoritarian and intransigent government.

David Arndt is a freelance critic in Fredericksburg.

David Arndt is a freelance critic in Fredericksburg.

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