Rising star: Olga Grushin, author

Olga Grushin, author

Writing is in this Russian author's blood: most of her family are journalists and her parents worked on liberal paper Komsomolskaya Pravda.

US critics loved her debut novel, The Dream Life of Sukhanov. The venerable Kirkus Review compared it to Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilyich.

The novel, a pyrotechnic story of an art editor's midlife crisis in Eighties Moscow, is all the more astonishing given that she wrote it in English, her third language.

The Grushins had to flee Prague when Olga was a child, due to her sociologist father's work pioneering public opinion polls. He's known as 'the Russian Gallup'.

Olga herself was the first Russian to receive an American university degree. During her time in the US, where she now lives, she's worked as an interpreter for Jimmy Carter.

But it's not all politics: she's written fairy stories since she was four years old. Her first featured a princess hearing a knock at a door and opening it to see 'princes all in a row, handsome'.

Her British editor recently overheard a couple discussing Grushin's book on the tube. When Olga heard, she felt 'a huge emotional charge, a concrete dream come true'.

· Alex Heminsley The Dream Life of Sukhanov by Olga Grushin, is published by Penguin on 9 March

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