May 20th 2017


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COVER STORY Morrison's budget jive lacks inherent harmony

CANBERRA OBSERVED Does budget do heavy lifting or is it "Labor lite"?

NEW ZEALAND Porn poll shows strong majority supports default opt-out policy to protect kids online

FRANCE Emmanuel Macron: a president without a political base

YOUNG POLITICAL ACTIVIST TRAINING (YPAT) Seven-day intensive course without equal in Australia

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Taiwan to go full steam ahead with submarines

RURAL AFFAIRS Murray Goulburn closures an omen of an industry in crisis

CLIMATE SCIENCE Temperature hasn't risen in 20 years: latest data

QUEENSLAND ENERGY 50 per cent renewables target: Is it credible?

LITERATURE Inexplicable: the ongoing appeal of H.P. Lovecraft

LITERATURE The gentle giant: Samuel Johnson

MUSIC Promissory notes: the public funding siphon

CINEMA Going in Style: Old dogs turned rookie robbers

LETTERS

BOOK REVIEW An abstemious revolutionary

BOOK REVIEW Soviet-era thriller revels in details

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BOOK REVIEW
Soviet-era thriller revels in details




News Weekly, May 20, 2017

THE MOLOTOV ADDENDUM

by Colin Roderick Fulton

Austin Macauley, London
Paperback: 377 pages
Price: AUD$32.99

Reviewed by Michael E. Daniel

 

It is the middle of 1939, and Valentin Mikhova, a senior Soviet commissar and hitherto loyal party member, decides to flee the Soviet Union with his daughter.

The Molotov Addendum is a gradual re-telling of Mikhova’s life, culminating in his decision to flee, as well as his escape attempt.

The son of a railway engine driver, Mikhova acquires an education. Coming of age just prior to World War I, he joins the Imperial Air Force, becoming a fighter pilot. His leadership skills and flying acumen are soon recognised, and he is rapidly promoted.

However, his private life is tumultuous, reflecting on many levels the chaos Russia was falling into. When his girlfriend Natalia falls pregnant, he marries her. With the onset of the Revolution, Mikhova decides to support the Bolsheviks, partly because his wife has political associations with them, but also because he is disgusted at the behaviour of groups hostile to the Bolsheviks, the murder of his father by one of them being a seminal catalyst.

As the Soviet Union emerges from the Civil War, Mikhova seeks to continue his association with the fledging aviation industry. Although he tries to sidestep politics, he gradually comes to the attention of, and receives the support of, Joseph Stalin.

Mikhova gradually grows disenchanted with the Soviet regime. Ironically, he has his initial reservations during the Civil War, when he witnesses violent acts conducted by the Cheka, the secret police who are the forerunners of the NKVD. This sense of moral outrage only increases as he witnesses the brutality of collectivisation of land in the early 1930s, and the purges of the late ’30s.

Like most Soviet citizens who had gained senior positions, Mikhova lives in constant fear of being arrested, tortured and executed, or sent to a gulag. Indeed, he becomes aware that the concierge of the block of flats in which he lives is constantly spying him upon.

Assigned to assist the Republican Government in the Spanish Civil War, Mikhova forms an attachment to a Spanish lady, Ana Ortega – by this stage, his marriage to Natalia is long since over. By this point he has also formed an alliance with the mysterious Sebastian Brady, whom he first met in 1918, and whom he is eventually to learn is an English agent, whose role was to prove seminal in Mikhova’s decision to defect.

Returning to the Soviet Union he learns that his name had been on a list of those to be purged but had been removed by Stalin himself. The last section of the novel describes Mikhova’s well-planned and thrilling attempt at escape with his daughter.

The Molotov Addendum is the an extremely engaging novel, published just before the death of its author, Colin Roderick Fulton, a former senior political television and radio journalist whose previous works include a biography of racing car driver Peter Brock.

This book is a good read that this reviewer found extremely hard to put down. The detail in the plot, for example, the descriptions of Russia’s air force in World War I, suggest that it is well researched.

Although the development of the characters, particularly of Valentin Mikhova himself, may not be as polished as works by other writers, Fulton’s insights into the fear that pervaded life in the Soviet Union under Stalin underscore the menacing nature of life under a communist regime.

This novel is highly recommended.

Michael E. Daniel is a Melbourne-based writer.


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