Vanora Bennett is the author of six novels, including The White Russian, Midnight in St Petersburg and her much-heralded fiction debut, Portrait of an Unknown Woman. She has also written two works of non-fiction about Russia, where she lived for seven years. The Taste of Dreams: An Obsession with Russia and Caviar, a travelogue through the wilder parts of newly capitalist Russia in the 1990s, followed her first published book, Crying Wolf, about the start of the post-Soviet war in Chechnya.
A journalist for many years at Reuters, the Los Angeles Times and The Times of London, Vanora studied Russian at Oxford and in the USSR, served as the Moscow correspondent of the Los Angeles Times and received a US Overseas Press Club award for her writing on Russia. Back in London as a leader writer at The Times, commenting on foreign affairs, immigration, legal (and sometimes also frivolous) matters, she was awarded the Orwell Prize for making political writing an art.
Vanora lives in Kentish Town with her husband and two sons. As the daughter of professional musician parents (her father is the flautist William Bennett), she was not altogether surprised when both her sons turned out to be choirboys. One recently became the BBC Radio 2 Choirboy of the Year. The other has performed in two operas with the English National Opera and in Toulouse through the Royal Opera House, and a third modern work, Perpetua, at its London premiere at Southwark Cathedral in 2014. Vanora’s husband, meanwhile, plays the accordion in the London Gypsy Orchestra. Vanora herself is not bad at the piano. She also made a violin as research for Midnight in St Petersburg (a novel set among violin-makers during the Russian Revolution), and now wants to learn the instrument well enough to join the gypsy orchestra too.
Her next book will be a non-fiction work dealing with the Russian Revolution.