Thursday, February 7, 2019

Blog Tour Guest Post: We Shall See the Sky Sparkling by Susana Aikin

Please join me in welcoming Susana Aikin to Let Them Read Books! Susana is touring the blogosphere with her new historical novel, We Shall See the Sparkling Sky, and I'm pleased to have her here today with a fun guest post about Russian tea culture. Read on and enter to win a paperback copy of We Shall See the Sparkling Sky!

Set in London and Russia at the turn of the century, Susana Aikin’s debut introduces a vibrant young woman determined to defy convention and shape an extraordinary future.

Like other well-bred young women in Edwardian England, Lily Throop is expected to think of little beyond marriage and motherhood. Passionate about the stage, Lily has very different ambitions. To her father’s dismay, she secures an apprenticeship at London’s famous Imperial Theatre. Soon, her talent and beauty bring coveted roles and devoted admirers. Yet to most of society, the line between actress and harlot is whisper-thin. With her reputation threatened by her mentor’s vicious betrayal, Lily flees to St. Petersburg with an acting troupe–leaving her first love behind.

Life in Russia is as exhilarating as it is difficult. The streets rumble with talk of revolution, and Lily is drawn into an affair with Sergei, a Count with fervent revolutionary ideals. Following Sergei when he is banished to Vladivostok, Lily struggles to find her role in an increasingly dangerous world. And as Russian tensions with Japan erupt into war, only fortitude and single-mindedness can steer her to freedom and safety at last.

With its sweeping backdrop and evocative details, We Shall See the Sky Sparkling explores a fascinating period in history through the eyes of a strong-willed, singular heroine, in a moving story of love and resilience.


by Susana Aikin

Tea is one of my favorite beverages, and when I first visited St. Petersburg I was delighted to find out that Russia has a very long standing tea-drinking tradition. I learnt that tea was first introduced to Russia in 1638 by a Mongolian ruler, who gifted Tsar Michael I a chest of tea. By the end of the 17th century, tea had become so popular that treatises were drawn up to establish regular imports from China via camel caravan in exchange for furs. These caravans traveled up to 18 months to reach Moscow through the Siberian Route, which later became known as the Tea Road. I also found out that one of my favorite teas, Russian Caravan, supposedly acquired its distinctive smoky flavor from the caravan's campfires along the journey.

Wooden box for the transportation of tea circa 1893, Imperial Russia

I also came across a very important element of the Russian tea culture: The ubiquitous Russian tea brewing device, known as a samovar, became a true symbol of hospitality and comfort.

Russian Samovar
circa 1860
Tea in Russia, especially afternoon tea, has traditionally been enhanced with a variety of goodies like jam, syrup, lemon, cakes, cookies, candies, and other sweets. And tea is, of course, at the very center of another very Russian tradition: garden picnics.

A very Chekhovian, typical Russian outdoor tea drinking scene.
Found in a biographical book by Mickael Bulgatav.
The Romanov family at one of their summer picnics

One of my all time favorite descriptions of a picnic in Russian literature is in Ada of Ardor, by Vladimir Nabokov, in which the Veen family celebrates Ada’s twelfth birthday with a lavish outdoor picnic set in a forest glade in their country estate. The following foods are described as served at the party:
"Stacks of tender crustless sandwiches (perfect rectangles five inches by two), the tawny corpse of a turkey, black Russian bread, port of Gray Bead caviar, candied violets, little raspberry tarts, have a gallon of Goodson white port, another of ruby, watered claret in thermos flasks for the girls, and the cold sweet tea of happy childhoods—"

Other delicious foods that can easily find their way to Russian picnics and tea parties are borscht, dumplings, pancakes with sour cream, a variety of fruit preserves, beetroot and herring salads, cakes with honey and poppy seeds, together with the traditional doughnut-shaped bread roll, and kalatch, the traditional braided bread made for special occasions.

The picnic, 1912, by Sergei Vinogradov

Outdoor tea parties are not necessarily restricted by climate conditions in Russia: Alongside picnics in beautiful spring and summer weather, there are also winter picnics, where drinking hot tea is even more appreciated.

Russian winter picnic

About the Author:

Born in Spain of an English father and a Spanish mother, Susana Aikin is a writer and a filmmaker who has lived and worked in New York City since 1982. She was educated in both England and Spain; studied law at the University of Madrid, and later Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University, UK. In 1986 she started her own independent film production company, Starfish Productions, producing and directing documentary films that won her multiple awards, including an American Film Institute grant, a Rockefeller Fellowship, and an Emmy Award in 1997. She started writing fiction full time in 2010. She has two sons and now lives between Brooklyn and the mountains north of Madrid.

For more information, visit Susana Aikin’s  website. You can also find her on FacebookTwitterInstagramPinterest, and Goodreads.

We Shall See the Sparkling Sky is on a blog tour!


During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a paperback copy of We Shall See the Sky Sparkling! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules:

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on February 28th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen. We Shall See the Sky Sparkling


  1. This book sounds wonderful -- and I love this about Russian tea! I had some tea with strawberry jam at a Russian restaurant and was totally charmed -- it's such a delicious way to make tea even yummier!

  2. Audra, thank you so much for your comment! The tea with strawberry jam sounds delicious! Susana Aikin

  3. Thank you so much for hosting Susana's blog tour & guest post! The book is absolutely fascinating, I highly recommend it! Thanks for being on the tour!

    HF Virtual Book Tours


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