In the early 1900s, enjoying a luxurious existence and a social life of parties and balls, Sophie becomes engaged to the love of her life; a young doctor, Anatoly Andropov. The outbreak of the Great War means that their marriage is earlier than planned and Tolya goes to serve in a field hospital on the eastern front.
Sophie, bored and lonely at home, leaves to join him as a nurse. Later she gives birth to a baby boy and, when expecting her second child, conditions compel her to return to her home city, now named Petrograd.
Petrograd becomes the epicentre of the greatest upheaval in Russian history where the Tsar is overthrown and socialist revolutionaries take over the government. During the months and years that follow, the socialist revolution and a bitter Civil War play out amidst uncertainty, lethal danger and brutal violence. Sophie’s family flee to England, to safety, but even that escape is marked with tragedy.
Sophie remains in Petrograd with her children to wait Tolya’s return. Conditions in the city deteriorate, threatening her little family with starvation and disease. Sophie endures endless struggles at home and at work in a state hospital with the fate of her husband always on her mind. Where is he? Is he even alive? Serious illness and the fragile health of her children drive her to join her family in England where she hears the worst news possible which forces her to return alone to Russia to embark on a dangerous quest.
This sweeping novel of love and loss will transport the reader from tsarist Russia in 1913, through the Great War, the Russian Revolution and Civil War to 1922, finally portraying the life of Russian émigrés in England.