A Train to Moscow

A Train to Moscow

In post-WWII Russia, a girl’s dream of becoming an actress can be an act of defiance.

A Train to Moscow book cover


“Through the eyes of young Sasha, an instinctive rebel against the stifling conformity imposed by state and family, we are given an intimate and unforgettable picture of Russian society in the decades after 1945. Sasha’s story crackles with energy; we come away with a new understanding of why, to her generation, the arts offered the only road to freedom.”

— J.M. Coetzee, winner of the 2003 Nobel Prize for Literature.

“Spellbinding, poignant, breathtaking. Elena Gorokhova’s first novel explores the meaning of truth, art, and the cost of secrets under the Soviet regime. Sasha’s story of pursuing her dreams no matter the cost will stay in your heart long after reading.”

— Lara Prescott, New York Times bestselling author of The Secrets We Kept.

“A taut, high-wire masterpiece. Rebellious aspiring actress Sasha comes of age in the pressure-cooker world of the postwar Soviet Union, battling oppressive Party politics, an enigmatic lover turned political censor, and the buried secrets of her own family which threaten to upset the fragile balance of survival. An unforgettable portrait of artistic struggle, strangled love, and undying hope – I couldn’t put it down!”

— Kate Quinn, New York Times best-selling author of The Alice Network.

“With skill and eloquence, Elena Gorokhova lays bare the complexities of growing up in post WWII Russia in this powerful story of tangled passions and deep-rooted loyalties. A Train to Moscow is a superb and memorable debut.”

— Susan Meissner, best-selling author of The Nature of Fragile Things.

A Train to Moscow is a marvelously complex love story set against the harsh realities of Soviet life in the 1950s and 1960s. Gorokhova knows that life intimately – and she knows, just as well, the intricacies of the human heart. A cast of memorable characters, a perfectly drawn background, fascinating historical scenes – all of it in service of a story that will hold the reader from first page to last. This is a remarkable achievement, not only for a first novelist, but for any novelist.”

— Roland Merullo, author of A Russian Requiem.

“…simmering in intensity and details.”

— Booklist

“A passionate and poignant debut.”

Toronto Star

It’s poignant and masterful, beautifully and intricately laced with imagery, intrigue, and emotion. …It’s unquestionably a notable and splendid piece of literature.”

– Portland Book Review

The Story Behind A Train to Moscow

Sasha’s story in A Train to Moscow is based on the acting career of my older sister, Marina, who was a great Russian actress and to whom this book is dedicated. Although most events in the novel are fictitious, the training method Sasha experiences at the best drama school in Moscow is completely real. As a student, my sister acted in the film-opera A Tsar’s Bride and later, onstage in Leningrad, in Twelfth Night and The Dawns Here Are Quiet, just as Sasha did in the novel. 

These are pictures of Marina when she was Sasha’s age – as a child, onstage, and in film. To me, this is what the narrator of the story in the novel looks like.

A Reading Guide for A Train To Moscow