My Affair With Stalin

Published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson on 22nd September 1997

This wickedly black comedy, set in the seventies, is a highly original guide to first love, brutal dictatorship – and Josef Stalin.

At an age when most boys are playing cricket and reading comics, eleven-year-old William Conroy decides to seize power and become the Stalin of his boarding school, Coverdale.

Delicate, unpopular and bullied, Conroy persuades the children to relive Stalin’s brutal career. He defies naive teachers and the McCarthyist witch-hunt of frantically anti-Communist parents. Using the music of Saturday Night Fever and ABBA combined with Stalin’s own words, Conroy stages his own Russian Revolution. After Lenin’s death, he defeats Trotsky to rise to unchallenged supremacy. But, like history, the Revolution consumes its children. Worshipped by his followers, tormented by treachery, this boy-Stalin, who rules through his own secret police, embarks on a vicious Great Terror to liquidate ‘Enemies of the People’. When a schoolboy Hitler attacks, Conroy fights for survival in his own Second World War.

But triumph turns to tragedy when Stalin becomes entangled in adult affairs: the charms of an elder woman supplant Conroy’s love for the dictator. Ultimately, sex destroys Stalin.

Montefiore has created a young anti-hero as hilarious as Just William, as monstrous as Stalin himself. His rite of passage shows what happens when a game of power grows into a dangerous obsession.