Blood Red, Snow White, Marcus Sedgwick, Roaring Brook Press, October, 2017
This is a beautiful book that brings the language and style of classic Russian tales to a retelling of the Russian Revolution for readers who may have little knowledge of the period.
The book is historical fiction, based on the life of Arthur Ransome who was an English journalist in Russia during the Revolutionary period. Ransome sent stories back to England in an attempt to help British newspaper readers understand what he was experiencing. His position was awkward, with some seeing him as a spokesman for the Bolsheviks, while to others he was always a spy for the British.
The book gives a good explanation of the period of the Russian Revolution, which involved much more than the storming of the Winter Palace in October 1917. The book does a great job of summarizing the last decades of the Czar, and his end.
The book also details the life, influence and behavior of Rasputin in full honesty (which is one of the reasons I wonder why the people of Roaring Brook suggest this book as appropriate for readers 12 yrs and up). It also deals with Ransome’s leaving of his wife and daughter to find true romance far away, his struggle to make the decision to divorce and his marriage to his great love and mistress, Evgenia. While his and Evgenia’s love story has a fairy tale ending, to understand it fully the reader needs more life, social and relationship experience than most young teens possess.
The book also does a fine job of picturing Ransome’s search for his own identity and a period of confusion when he doubted his own value. While centering around the great love between Ransome and his mistress, and how their commitment saves him, it also shows how this love buries any chance of the reconciliation of his marriage. There is a great sense of the true struggles of Ransome as man, a reporter and a politically minded citizen of the world.
The writing in this book uses multiple forms and ranges from perfect to very good. It really reads like something that a Russian would have written, but then Sedgwick is recognized as a master writer.
In short, I love the book and, think it is unique in helping students in grades of ten and above, though college and adults, understand much of the Russian Revolution and its immediate aftermath in a nontraditional Western form.