web analytics

A Tear in the Curtain

Back to John Symons

This story of three families, Russian, Hungarian and British, is a timely reminder of the recent but half-forgotten period in which the story is set, the Cold War. Their experiences reflect the brutality, bravery, heartbreak, hope and disappointment of those days when Europe was divided by the Iron Curtain.

As a thaw in East-West relations set in following the death of Stalin, an English school teacher was able to invite a Russian boy and a Hungarian brother and sister to join him and his family for a seaside holiday. The visitors returned home just before the outbreak of the Hungarian uprising and the Suez crisis intensified the Cold War again.

Through the lives of the four children and their families, the book describes the impact of the brutal repression of the Hungarian people, during which the older boy and his mother were killed, but two younger children escaped to the West and were adopted by the British family.

As the children grew up on either side of the Iron Curtain, they were affected by world events, including the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, the Solidarity movement in Poland in the early 1980s, the end of Communism in Eastern Europe in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Through his remarkable grandmother, the only person he can trust in a society where no one knows who is an informer, the Russian boy learns the story of their people’s sufferings after Lenin seized power and established a criminal and mendacious regime in Russia that would last most of the century.

Narrated in simple, fast-moving language, describing how events impact on the children as they grow up, the book will appeal not only to adults but to young people. A fifteen year-old boy with dyslexia was absorbed by the story and read it, twice, in thirty-six hours. He said how much it helped him to see the meaning of Hitler and the Second World War which he was studying for his exams.

A selection of reviews

“This is the history of Russia, but in a form that you will not have read it before. It is at the same time objective and intensely personal. It tells us more in a few pages than many more formal accounts manage in a whole volume … A short review cannot reveal the riches of this novel: easy reading, full of insight, inspiring, and leaving one with the conviction that Russia’s renewed betrayal of its moral values can be only a passing phase.”
Michael Bourdeaux, founder of Keston Institute, Oxford, Church Times

“It is full of keen insights, and I am enjoying it enormously.”
The Very Revd Archpriest Andrew Louth

“The writer is a consummate artist in style, with a poet’s eye for detail. The story is exceptionally vivid – expressing deep faith and perception of the meaning of life, moving to tears, and searching.” C.F.D. Moule, Professor Emeritus, Theology, Cambridge

“The quiet courage of a family in dire adversity could not be better demonstrated. John Symons describes the tragedies that struck at the heart of a poor but devoted Cornish family. Humanity and the valour of the human spirit shine from every page.”   This England