Jilted by his girlfriend and disillusioned by modern France, the writer Shutov revisits St Petersburg after twenty years in exile, hoping to reconnect with his roots and the woman he loved in his youth. But she, and the brash new Russia that greets him, are not what he was expecting at all.
Then he encounters Volsky, a fellow relic of the Communist era who relates his story: of surviving the Siege of Leningrad, the march on Berlin and Stalin "s purges, and of a transcendent love affair. It is a tale of extraordinary endurance and courage, yet the old man considers himself unexceptional. Fortunate, too, for he and the woman he loved knew great happiness. To Shutov, his story comes as a revelation, and an inspiration.
In this powerful and moving novel, Andre Makine explores what truly matters in life through the prism of Russia "s past and present. Drawing on his own experience of growing up in the Soviet Union, he poses an unsettling question: for all its horrors, was life under Communism richer than it is now? In the story of just another unknown, unsung hero lies an answer...