The Oligarch's Wife, By Anna Blundy

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The Independent Culture

Pavel Ivanchenko's life begins in poverty and violence, but this blond-haired survivor rises to become a post-Glasnost plutocrat. He starts off trading illegal vodka on the grim streets of Kargasok, but ends up buying most of the steel in the old Soviet Union.

At the heart of this novel are two women: one English, one Russian, who meet as teenagers in Seventies Moscow, and whose lives become entwined with Pavel's. Anna Blundy, the author of comic thrillers, provides a seasonal escapist read, though her depiction of Big Freeze St Petersburg is no longer as exotic as she might have hoped.