Genre: Historical Fiction
Setting: Petrograd, Russia 1916-1919
My Copy Came From: I purchased the hardcover from Costco.
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Review: An epic, grand, and captivating tale of the Russian Revolution. I read this slowly as I wanted to savor everything about it: the history, the writing, the characters, and the story. I loved The Revolution of Marina M, although it was extremely long (800 pages!), and I hadn’t realized before I started it that this is just Book One. There is another book coming, with more of Marina’s story. I think this fact is very important to know before picking up The Revolution of Marina M, as I tend to forget a lot of the details about the books I read, and with a massive book like this, with lots of characters and history, I fear that I will have forgotten who is who before Book Two is released.
Why don’t you write in English, Marina? asks my friend Elizabeth. You speak it so well.
My dilemma. My English is good enough for the little stories I publish in pulp magazines, but for poetry one needs one’s native tongue. The voice of the soul is not so easily translated.
Told in first person, we are thrust into Marina’s story, and Marina was a compelling narrator. She speaks her mind, and while I didn’t always agree with her actions, nor did I always like her as a person, I could still admire her tenacity and drive for life. She kept my interest throughout this large book, which is sometimes difficult to do in a first person narrative.
While I found Marina the most interesting character (and thank goodness, because it’s her story!), there were several other characters I liked as well. There’s the revolutionary Varvara, who stirs up trouble for Marina, and is just one of those characters who sets things into motion. Something is always happening when Varvara is near, and I found her character dangerous, sad, and intriguing.
I also liked Genya, a Bolshevik poet that Marina takes up with, and I liked his sweetness and straightforwardness. I also liked Anton, a surly, irritable man who isn’t in the book for all that much, but there was just something about him that made him interesting.
There’s also another character, Kolya, whom Marina has always been in love with, and it is this love that Marina clings to during the book. I couldn’t ever get behind the Kolya match, and so this passion between them wasn’t something that I really felt anything about. I’m sure some readers will love their story, others will hate it, I just couldn’t understand why she was so in love with him, so didn’t get it.
I lay my Webster’s on the scrubbed table in the lantern light, to learn that flotsam is the debris left from shipwreck, while jetsam is merchandise thrown overboard from a ship in crisis to lighten the load. Ship in crisis. That it was. The difference seems to be tied to the fate of the ship. Did it survive after shedding those such as myself, tossing us overboard—jetsam—to lighten the load, or did it founder, to be torn apart, mastless and rudderless, the planks and boards washed ashore—flotsam—perhaps one bearing the ship’s name. And the name was… Revolution.
I thought the historical aspect of The Revolution of Marina M was very well done. I felt like I was in Petrograd with Marina, seeing the fighting, feeling the chill and hunger, and trying to survive. I’ve never studied Russian history, nor read too many books about it, even though it fascinates me, and so there were many things that I didn’t quite understand as they happened. I didn’t understand why certain things were important, but this didn’t hamper my enjoyment of the book. I learned a lot while reading this, and have such an appreciation for the amount of research that must’ve gone into writing this.
I cannot review this book without mentioning the following: there are many graphic consensual sex scenes, and also several exceedingly graphic scenes of rape and torture. There is also one gruesome scene detailing the butchering of a deer. I don’t generally do content warnings in my reviews, except for the occasional mention of too much violence, sex, or language, but the content warning is a necessity here.
While this book is definitely not for those looking for a light read, The Revolution of Marina M tells a compelling tale of one girl living through the Russian Revolution. This is a book to take your time reading, a book not to rush through. I’m really looking forward to book two, but I do wish that I had waited to read this one until book two was already out.
All I pray is that I’m buried in Russia, Avdokia liked to say. For myself, I had no idea how much longer I would sojourn, how many miles I would walk, how many years. To live was the thing.
Bottom Line: I really loved this epic story. Definitely not for those looking for a light read. Well worth the time it takes to read.