The Love and Wars of Lina Prokofiev

Simon Morrison

The Love and Wars of Lina Prokofiev

Lina Prokofiev was alone in her Moscow apartment one night when the telephone rang. The caller insisted that she come downstairs to collect a parcel, but when she reached the courtyard she was arrested. Born in Madrid to a Russian soprano and a Spanish tenor, Lina had spent much of her youth in Brooklyn. It was while working as a secretary, hoping to build her own singing career, that she met the young pianist and composer Serge Prokofiev. Although her mother warned her against him, their relationship evolved in the full glare of the media. In 1936 the couple was enticed back to the Soviet Union with the promise of artistic and personal freedom. The assurances proved false, and when Serge later abandoned Lina she found herself trapped in the country, struggling to support their two sons through one of the darkest periods in Soviet history. What emerges is not simply the portrait of a famous composer's wife but of a remarkable woman who gave up her career for the brilliant man she married. 3.4 out of 5 based on 7 reviews
The Love and Wars of Lina Prokofiev

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre Biography, Music, Stage & Screen
Format
Pages
RRP
Date of Publication March 2013
ISBN 978-1846557316
Publisher Harvill Secker
 

Lina Prokofiev was alone in her Moscow apartment one night when the telephone rang. The caller insisted that she come downstairs to collect a parcel, but when she reached the courtyard she was arrested. Born in Madrid to a Russian soprano and a Spanish tenor, Lina had spent much of her youth in Brooklyn. It was while working as a secretary, hoping to build her own singing career, that she met the young pianist and composer Serge Prokofiev. Although her mother warned her against him, their relationship evolved in the full glare of the media. In 1936 the couple was enticed back to the Soviet Union with the promise of artistic and personal freedom. The assurances proved false, and when Serge later abandoned Lina she found herself trapped in the country, struggling to support their two sons through one of the darkest periods in Soviet history. What emerges is not simply the portrait of a famous composer's wife but of a remarkable woman who gave up her career for the brilliant man she married.

Secret torment of the composer's wife | Simon Morrison | Daily Mail (17/3/13)

Reviews

The Scotsman

Stuart Kelly

Morrison’s biography of Lina is as much a story of personal tragedy and disappointment as it is a compelling study of how art and tyranny interact … Morrison writes excellently about her wartime deprivations and courage.

16/03/2013

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The Sunday Times

John Carey

It is a strength of Morrison’s book that he does not whitewash Lina, but concedes she was just as ardent for glamour and celebrity … Morrison’s book is a feat of retrieval, drawing on a mass of unpublished documents in the Prokofiev family archive and Soviet police files. It is unforgettable as a testimony of personal devotion and a record of the dehumanising power of art. What it lacks, inevitably, is Prokofiev’s music.

10/03/2013

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The Times

Richard Morrison

Meticulously researched … Morrison lingers too long over the minutiae of Lina’s early life, but the book becomes increasingly readable as the story gathers tragic force.

16/03/2013

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The Guardian

Stephen Walsh

Morrison tells a good story, without excess or indulgence, and with touching empathy for his heroine.

30/03/2013

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The New Statesman

Amanda Foreman

After enduring 13 months of torture and interrogation, Lina was given a 15-minute trial and sentenced to 20 years in a forced labour camp. It is at this point that a glaring omission in Simon Morrison’s immensely readable and entertaining book comes to light. The reader is at page 254 with only 40 pages to go, while Lina has another 40 years to live. Her eight years in the Gulag takes up a little over 20 pages and then it’s a romp home to old age. The vast lacuna that is Lina’s life after the death of Prokofiev in 1953 (three years before her release) cruelly highlights the very fear that made her cling to the composer for all those years: she was “someone” with him, and no one without him.

21/03/2013

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The Observer

Lettie Ransley

Simon Morrison's account of Lina's life is forensically detailed in parts, yet vast Siberian silences remain. Little is said of the eight years she spent as a zek in the gulag following her estrangement from Sergei and arrest on spurious charges, yet tantalising glimpses show her will remained undefeated.

12/05/2013

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The Literary Review

Alexander Waugh

This book is described on its cover as a ‘dramatic untold story’. I have not read the one other biography, Lina Prokofiev: Una española en el gulag (2009), because it is only available in Spanish (which I cannot understand) and it is not immediately obvious from reading this book, or the press release that came with it, which parts contain the scoop. Nor is it easy to tell from Morrison’s veiled account if Lina Prokofiev was an easy person to know, nor even if she was likeable ... With an inexplicable gap in the narrative between 1928 and 1935, this biography falls short of painting a vivid portrait but tries hard to ingratiate Lina to its readership. No doubt this was the fair price to pay for essential cooperation from her grandson Sergey Prokofiev Jr

01/03/2013

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