Blood Red, Snow White by Marcus Sedgwick

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RATING: 3/5

BLURB: “Deep in the snowy forest, the great bear that is Russia wakes from a long sleep and marches to St Petersburg to claim its birthright. In 1917 the Bolsheviks hold power. Lenin and Trotsky govern from palaces where the Tsars once danced until dawn. Their time is over. 

And caught in the midst, an Englishman played a dangerous game. Arthur Ransome, a journalist and writer, left his home, his wife and daughter, and fell in love with Russia and a Russian woman, Evgenia.”

REVIEW: Based on the true story of Arthur Ransome and shaped using real events from the Russian Revolution, this novel is actually targeted towards children and young adults. I was intrigued to see how Sedgwick would portray the Revolution, in sight of this target market, and was pleasantly surprised and subsequently delighted by Sedgwick’s writing of this period. Part 1 of the book, which details the frightening lead-up to the Revolution as well as the horrors of the actual event, uses beautiful and evocative metaphors – most obviously the great bear representing the common Russian people (Bolsheviks) – to create a fairy-tale atmosphere, a dream-like sense of the dying old order and the timidly dawning new age. I thoroughly enjoyed this section of the book with its vivid imagery and concise detail, with events explained simply and efficiently to aid the understanding of the younger reader. However, in parts 2 and 3 of the novel I found myself caring less and less for Arthur’s character – his motives in life seem unclear, even nonexistent, and the ambiguous ending leaves much to be desired in not telling us the true end of Arthur’s tale. An adult reader such as myself would undertake further research in the area to find out more about Arthur Ransome’s part in the Russian Revolution, but younger readers (who are more likely to read this novel) are probably less likely to undertake further research, meaning that it would be difficult for them to obtain a full picture. However, the book was engaging and well thought-out, and would be a perfect way of introducing the Russian Revolution to younger students. 

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