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The Last Russian Doll by Kristen Loesch
Historical fiction

The Last Russian Doll

Debut

We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Kristen Loesch, on your first book!

by Kristen Loesch

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Quick take

This epic story weaves one family’s tragic splintering into the larger tapestry of Russia’s turbulent 20th century.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_400

    400+ pages

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_FamilyDrama

    Family drama

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_NonLinear

    Nonlinear timeline

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_ForbiddenLove

    Forbidden love

Synopsis

In a faraway kingdom, in a long-ago land . . .

. . . a young girl lived happily in Moscow with her family: a sister, a father, and an eccentric mother who liked to tell fairy tales and collect porcelain dolls.

One summer night, everything changed, and all that remained of that family were the girl and her mother.

Now, a decade later and studying at Oxford University, Rosie has an English name, a loving fiancé, and a promising future, but all she wants is to understand—and bury—the past. After her mother dies, Rosie returns to Russia, armed with little more than her mother’s strange folklore—and a single key.

What she uncovers is a devastating family history that spans the 1917 Revolution, the siege of Leningrad, Stalin’s purges, and beyond.

At the heart of this saga stands a young noblewoman, Tonya, as pretty as a porcelain doll, whose actions—and love for an idealistic man—will set off a sweeping story that reverberates across the century . . .

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Content warning

This book contains scenes depicting domestic abuse.

Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of The Last Russian Doll.
The Last Russian Doll

Prologue

In some faraway kingdom, in some long-ago land, there lived a young girl who looked just like her porcelain doll. The same rusty-gold hair. The same dark-wine eyes. The girl’s own mother could hardly tell them apart. But they were never apart, for the girl always held the doll at her side, to keep it from the clutches of her many, many siblings.

The family lived in a dusky-pink house by the river, and in the evenings, the children liked to gather around the old stove and listen to their mother tell stories. Stories of kingdoms even farther away and lands even longer ago, when there had been kings and queens living in castles, stories of how those castles had been swept away into the midnight-black sea. The many, many siblings would drift away to sleep on these stories, and then the mother would take the girl and the doll into her lap and tell tales of the girl’s father. He’d had the same rusty-gold hair, the same dark-wine eyes, in some other faraway kingdom, in some other long-ago land.

But one evening after supper, as the stove simmered and the samovar sang and the mother spoke and the children listened, there came the sound of footsteps outside the house. Stomp-stomp-stomp.

There came a knock on the dusky-pink door. Rap-rap-rap.

There came a man’s voice, which had no color at all. Open, open, open!

The mother opened the door. Two men stood there, each carrying a rifle.

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Why I love it

The Last Russian Doll is a triumphant addition to the grand Russian novel tradition. Populated with a glittering and complex cast, the saga is propelled by stories nestled within stories, sometimes shared, sometimes concealed, from mothers and daughters, grandmothers and granddaughters.

This dual timeline novel spans the Russian Revolution, the Soviet Era, and the early days of glasnost and Perestroika. In the 1990s timeline, we follow the story of Rosie, a successful Oxford student who fled Moscow as a child with her mother after the horrific murder of her father and sister. Following her mother’s death at the beginning of the novel, Rosie returns to Russia hoping to lay to rest the ghosts of her past and understand the tragedy that marred her childhood. The second timeline starts in 1916 St. Petersburg, where we meet Antonina, wife of a Russian aristocrat who bristles at the confines of the Russian bourgeoisie. Antonina soon falls for the idealistic and charming Bolshevik Valentin Andreyev, sparking a love that endures decades of conflict and loss.

Both propulsive and engaging, I didn’t know whether to speed up to find out what happened next, or slow down and savor the artful prose and deft characterization. By the end, no one is left entirely innocent, and none are unscathed in this sweeping love story riddled with betrayal and the far-reaching consequences of private jealousies in times of public upheaval. I loved this book and suspect you will too!

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Member ratings (6,471)

  • Whitney W.

    Hamilton, OH

    Я люблю эту книгу. Между историей и языком это было все равно, что пить горячий чай через кусочек сахара между зубами.

  • Leah R.

    Washington, UT

    AHH-MAZING. I would give this book 100+ stars⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️. This has been my favorite read so far this year. I can’t even put it into words how much I liked it; I’m lost for words. Just WOW.

  • Kelly G.

    Defiance, OH

    I almost passed on this book. I would’ve missed a beautiful story! This had just the right touch of mystery tangled with history and story telling. LOVED it! This is now placed on my “favorite shelf”.

  • Lauren B.

    Augusta , ME

    I don’t think I would’ve found this book without BOTM and I really liked it. It was historical fiction that I didn’t know anything about—1900’s Russia—with a strong mystery and a little romance.

  • Morgan H.

    Fairbanks, AK

    4/5⭐️ I really enjoyed this. Well developed characters and multiple perspectives. Wish I was a bit more familiar with Russian history and that the ending was a bit cleaner but otherwise very enjoyable

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