Novel by Ridley alumnus looks at Cold War
A new novel by John Symons, who graduated from Ridley in 1972, has been published by Shepheard-Walwyn Ltd to strong endorsements for its well-crafted and intimate insight into Russian history.
A Tear in the Curtain, published in 2013, is the story of three families, brought together and kept apart by terrible events. A Russian boy and Hungarian brother and sister spend an idyllic seaside holiday with an English family in August 1956, just before the Suez Crisis and the Hungarian Uprising intensify the Cold War and cut them off from each other.
But the lives of the families continue to intersect as events unfold: the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, the Solidarity movement in Poland, the end of Communism in Eastern Europe and the collapse of the Soviet Union - and afterwards.
Their experiences reflect the danger, bravery, heartache, hope and disappointment of those days when the world was divided by the Iron Curtain.
This is the history of Russia, but in a form that you will not have read it before. It is at the same time objective and intensely personal. It tells us more in a few pages than many more formal accounts manage in a whole volume ... Academic writers just do not seem to achieve this perspective ... A short review cannot ... reveal the riches of this novel: easy reading, full of insight, inspiring, and leaving one with the conviction that Russia's renewed betrayal of its moral values can be only a passing phase.
Michael Bourdeaux, founder of Keston Institute, Oxford in the Church Times
This is a gem of a book ... compellingly well-written, so absorbing it can be read at a sitting. Re-reading yields more each time, like the best music ... spare, beautiful prose - all the more moving for its under-stated elegance and all the more gripping for its striking use of Hemingway-like short sentence and punchy dialogue ... His technique of using three families across generations allows full scope to the author's immense emotional and intellectual range. Its approach and theme are worthy of comparison with Jung Chang's 'Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China' ... he has written what deserves to become a classic of its kind.'
Giles Mercer, The Catholic Times, July 2013