PERESTROIKA: An Eye for an Eye, A Tooth for a Tooth

Author Joao Cerqueira contacted me in early November about his novel, Perestroika: An Eye for an Eye, A Tooth for a Tooth. I love hearing from authors living in different parts of the world, and a novel featuring Perestroika sounded compelling, especially in today’s world, so I immediately said yes. Recently, Joao’s novel won the Historical Fiction Company 2023 Book of the Year award.

In his email, Joao mentioned that his novel, Perestroika, might interest readers of A Writer of History: “Because of the Russian aggression against Ukraine and the threat of a third world war, I think this book addresses issues of critical interest in discussions on the problems of today’s world.”

Yes, dear readers, we have plenty of problems in today’s world. Here’s Joao Cerqueira with a perspective on those problems told through his latest novel.


Perestroika is a historical fiction set in an imaginary country called Slavia. Having as a binding element Pilate’s question to Jesus “what is truth?”, Perestroika is a novel of revenge, redemption and catharsis inspired by recent European history. The second part of the book coincides with the fall of the Berlin Wall. The character who becomes president after Perestroika, Ivan Fiorov, is inspired by both Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. The main character is a woman: Lia Kirchner.

Because the novel combines history, politics, arts, tragedy and humor, it has something truly original to offer readers. Readers who like historical and literary fiction and also those who are interested in politics and human rights will be interested in the story and its relevance to today. In short, the book stands for political freedom and for humanitarian values.

A guiding principle for my writing is to be original, both in form and content. So, I chose the theme of Perestroika because there is practically no novel in the world that addresses the theme – I found a book on Amazon called Perestroika in Paris, but it is a romance novel. So, I decided to address this forgotten historical topic.

Perestroika: An Eye for an Eye, a Tooth for a Tooth is an ambitious novel for several reasons: it has thirty-eight characters who evolve over a fourteen-year time span, it addresses a theme – the democratization of communist countries and the end of the Cold War – that has changed the world and, due to Putin’s military expansionism and the invasion of Ukraine, it became current since without Perestroika, Putin and other populists would never have achieved power. 

Furthermore, the novel uses art – Christ expelling the money changers from the Temple of El Greco – as a mirror of political and social changes. And, finally, Pilate’s question to Jesus – “What is truth?” – runs throughout the entire novel, gets into the heads of several characters who give him different answers, and ends the story with a twist that will surprise the reader. 

More than a political novel, it is also a story about human nature that addresses themes common in all literature: the rise and fall of societies, the struggle for power and survival, the search for truth, love, revenge, and the possibility of redemption. The action of the book, instead of taking place in an imaginary country called Slavia, could take place, with the necessary changes, in any time or place in history, in the past or in the future. Whether the character is a woman living in medieval times or a man living in a colony on Mars, both would want to know who their parents were and take revenge on those who abused them. Hence the eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth in the title.

Finally, as I mentioned before, it is at the end of the book that the greatest challenge lies in relation to everything I’ve written so far.

Joao’s novel, Perestroika, has recently won the 2023 Historical Fiction Company Book of the Year award. It was also a finalist in the 2021 Eyland Awards, a finalist in the Fiction Factory 2021, and received the Bronze Medal in the 2023 Latino Book Awards.

“Perestroika” stands out through the author’s ability to create complex characters and explore the subtleties of a changing society. It is a captivating journey into recent history, blending political, social, and personal aspects into a fascinating tableau of the struggle for freedom and truth. The author provides a profound insight into the souls of the characters, and readers are captivated by their evolution in the face of the challenges of oppression. “Perestroika” not only delights with a well-crafted story but also prompts reflection on the human condition in the face of the pressures of tumultuous history. Historical Fiction Company review.

Perestroika by Joao Cerqueira ~~ Having as a binding element Pilate’s question to Jesus “what is truth?”, Perestroika is a novel of revenge, redemption and catharsis inspired by recent European history.

Perestroika is a historical fiction novel that provides thrilling insights into the late Communist era. The book opens in 1978 and introduces citizens of Slavia like artist Ludwig Kirchner, struggling to survive in concentration camps, whilst the terrifying elites of the regime live in luxury and moral depravity. It all changes in 1989, with Perestroika. In the revolutionary turmoil, former crime boss Ivan Fiorov leads the
newly formed ‘Freedom Party’, heralding a wave of insecurity that resembles the previous dictatorship.

Revenge, redemption and catharsis collide head on with recent European history. With Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, alongside a resurgence of populist leaders and neo-Nazi movements across the world, Perestroika is as much a lens into the present as an exciting epitome for the past.

Joao Cerqueira was born and lives in Viana do Castelo, Portugal, holds a PhD in Art History from the University of Porto, and is a professor at ESE (School of Education) and a columnist for the newspaper Sun. Joao is also the author of nine books and is published in eight countries.

Many thanks, Joao for sharing the story behind writing Perestroika as well as the themes it addresses and their relevance to today. I wish you great success with its English release in North America. Given what’s going on in the world, we should all get a copy right now!


M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel is THE ADMIRAL’S WIFE, a dual timeline set in Hong Kong. Mary’s other novels, PARIS IN RUINS, TIME AND REGRET, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads or on her website

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The historical fiction author behind A Writer of History...

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