A love triangle involving Mikhail Bulgakov, famed author of The Master and Margarita; an agent of Stalin's secret police; and the bewitching Margarita has inescapable consequences for all three in 1930s Russia. A time when expression was censored by authoritarian rule, eerily mirroring the political suppression of today.
It is 1933 and Mikhail Bulgakov's enviable career is on the brink of being dismantled. His friend and mentor, the poet Osip Mandelstam, has been arrested, tortured, and sent into exile. Meanwhile, a mysterious agent of the secret police has developed a growing obsession with exposing Bulgakov as an enemy of the state. To make matters worse, Bulgakov has fallen in love with the dangerously outspoken Margarita. Facing imminent arrest, infatuated with Margarita, he is inspired to write his masterpiece, The Master and Margarita, a satirical novel that is scathingly critical of power and the powerful.
Ranging between lively readings in the homes of Moscow's literary elite to the Siberian Gulag, Mikhail and Margarita recounts a passionate love triangle while painting a portrait of a country with a towering literary tradition confronting a dictatorship that does not tolerate dissent. Margarita is a strong, idealistic woman, who is fiercely loved by two very different men, both of whom will fail in their attempts to shield her from the machinations of a regime hungry for human sacrifice. Himes launches a rousing defense of art and the artist during a time of systematic deception and she movingly portrays the ineluctable consequences of love for one of history's most enigmatic literary figures.
About the Author
Julie Lekstrom Himes short fiction has been published in Shenandoah, The Florida Review (Editor's Choice Award 2008), Fourteen Hills (nominated for Best American Mysteries 2011), and elsewhere. Mikhail and Margarita is her debut novel. She lives with her family in Marblehead, Massachusetts.
Praise for Mikhail and Margarita
Winner of the Center for Fiction's 2017 First Novel Prize
An NPR Best Book of 2017
"Himes's confident, carefully crafted debut novel...adeptly details brutality and betrayal as well as creativity and the uncertainties of censorship..."
--Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"In Mikhail and Margarita, Himes manages to perform the remarkable task of simultaneously paying homage to Mikhail Bulgakov's novel and writing her own brilliant novel of love, betrayal and censorship. the result is an atmospheric, gripping, authoritative and deeply suspenseful narrative that utterly transports the reader."
--Margot Livesey, New York Times bestselling author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy and Mercury
"Mikhail and Margarita renders with astonishing authority and grace not only the oppressive monstrousness of the Soviet Regime...but also the intensity and beauty of the love at the novel's center, a love that's all the more heartening because it's generated by figures with such spectacular flaws."
--Jim Shepard, national Book Award nominated author of The Book of Aron
"This richly imagined retelling of [Bulgakov's] lean years wich gave rise to his phantasmagoric novel "The Master and Margarita"--mixes fact and fiction to create a narrative that is both foreign and familiar."
--The New Yorker
"A book about authoritarian crackdown on speech and satire that is sadly timely."
"Himes' novel is lovely and stands on its own for a reader who has no prior experience with Bulgakov's work or Russian literature. But for the reader who is familiar Himes has woven in references and details that are delightful."
"Part paean to Bulgakov's genius, part essay on the issue of censorship, Mikhail and Margarita is strongest when it examines classical fiction's central themes, deception and betrayal."
--The Historical Novels Review