The publication of Jim Pinnells’ new WW1 novel coincides with the centenary year of the Brusilov Offensive on the Eastern Front

Jim Pinnells has set his latest historical novel, Ilona Lost, during the Brusilov Offensive on the Russian Front in World War One.

“The Brusilov Offensive was timed to coincide with the Somme Offensive in the west. This is the only example I know from World War One where east and west joined in strategic planning. In World War Two, of course, east and west worked closely together,” says author Jim, whose latest novel Ilona Lost asks the question (among others): Did the twin campaigns of 1916 prepare the way for the east-west co-operation that destroyed Hitler?

A compelling and unusual love story, Ilona Lost features two women fighting to survive in worlds dominated by men: the battlefield (1914-1918 and the Russo-Polish War), industrial management, and the bars and brothels of post-war London. Part One is set during the Brusilov Offensive – the destruction of the Russian Army by Bolshevik agitators directly affects the main characters: an English nurse, Evelyn, and a Polish teenager, Ilona. The two women are emotionally numb after their experiences in the army camps, field hospitals and shattered villages of the Ukraine.

Both the Somme Offensive and Brusilov’s Offensive in the East failed. The Somme wasted thousands of lives; Brusilov’s failure led to the collapse of Russia. As chaos turned to hell, Lenin and the Red Army took over. Through it all, Ilona, the peasant girl, and Evelyn, the nurse, cling together, becoming not only comrades but lovers.

As the war in western Europe drags on, they find their way back to the English Midlands, where Evelyn’s family owns an engine-factory. Based on her experience as a nurse during the Brusilov Offensive, Evelyn plans to build something new: safe battlefield ambulances. She seizes control of the factory and starts work. Under the influence of the Bolshevik propaganda she has picked up at the front, Evelyn tries to run the factory on co-operative lines – a hard sell in England in 1918. At the same time, Evelyn’s relationship with Ilona disintegrates. They quarrel violently, and Ilona loses herself in the lesbian bars and brothels of London. But Evelyn cannot live without the girl she loves – and so she starts her search for the lost Ilona, discovering the sordid and degenerate world of London, from Mayfair to Whitechapel, made vicious by the war...

In Ilona Lost, readers will find out what this conflict meant to the men and women on the ground: the cost in ruined lives, butchered dreams and shattered personalities.

Jim Pinnells works around the world launching, rescuing or closing out international projects. Jim works in many fields – national security, oil, windfarms, aircraft (military and civilian), international treaties – from Russia to Venezuela and from South Africa to Sweden. He has published widely, including his first two novels, Saturn’s Daughters (Matador, 2013) and The Causeway (Matador, 2009). Jim, who fought in the British infantry himself, is available for interview – review copies of Ilona Lost are available on request.

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