Monday, 17 March 2014

Blood Red, Snow White by Marcus Sedgwick



Marcus Sedgwick wrote a book I read last year that I loved called Midwinterblood. I found his writing style effortless and the story uniquely brilliant.  So in my so called reading rut I chose to read another of his stories in the hope that it would be as captivating as the first.

Blood Red, Snow White is a very different story to Midwinterblood that clearly demonstrates Sedgwick’s remarkable versatility as a writer. This story is most certainly not fantasy fiction but more a historical story focusing on the era surrounding the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia. The central character is the very real Arthur Ransome (the author of Swallows & Amazons). The story tells the tale of the almost spy like role that Ransome played in Russia during the uprising and subsequent takeover by the Bolsheviks.

The story is told in three separate parts, the first of which I found the most difficult to get into. It was just far too abstract for my very logical brain. I can cope with all sorts of mind up, imaginary creatures and worlds in fantasy fiction but when you try to use the analogy of a bear representing Russia you just lose me. I think this first part was the reason it took me a rather long time to get into the story. It is both a biographical and historical story which just didn't meet my expectations of Sedgwick. In truth I rather naively assumed he stuck to type and wrote mainly fantasy and supernatural fiction.

As always I find historical fiction a challenge to my history background (I have a degree in History). This story amplified this even more as I studied a few modules in Russian history as part of my degree. I always find myself distracted by what is historical fact and what is more artistic licence. I really wanted to pick up my copy of A History of Modern Russia by Robert Service just to check what Sedgwick had embellished.  Thankfully this proved unnecessary as Sedgwick uses the appendices of the book to highlight the areas that are not 100% factually correct and he stuck loyally to the dates that occurred in history.

The story itself I found dis-jointed. As a reader I felt hurled about through the plot at a bizarre and uneven pace that made it very difficult to understand where I was in the story. Ransome, an English writer, leaves his (possibly disturbed) wife in 1913 and young daughter to go to Russia.  He finds himself able to move safely in Bolshevik circles and this leads to a suspicion that he is a spy. Whilst in Russia, he also meets Evgenia (Trotsky’s secretary) who captivates his attentions and from there on out he basis many of his choices around being with her.  Now it is difficult as Ransome is a real man to separate him from the character that Sedgwick has created. From a fictional point of view Ransome seems a bit ignorant of the circumstances he puts himself in. I personally think it is pretty obvious why he is shrouded in suspicion as he very often does not seem to act like an innocent man. Furthermore, he seems to take no true thought in abandoning his daughter for the love of Russia and eventually for the love of Evgenia. As a character he did not garner my emotional support as I could not fathom the basis of his choices, they seemed very obscure. I do not know if this is how Ransome was in real life but the character version in this particular interpretation was not the most likeable. 

Not really what I was hoping for to bring back some excitement to my current reading list. However, it hasn't put me off Sedgwick completely and I might give another one of his books a try soon. 

Just not my style!

I have linked this up with Catch a Single Thought's book love for March :)

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1 comment:

  1. How disappointing for you after you enjoyed his first book so much! It sounds like a really interesting story but I'm not much good with complicated analogies either, so maybe not one for me. Thank you for linking up again :)

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