It’s been ten long years since the talented Janet Fitch gave us a work of fiction to read so I immediately snatched up a copy of her recently released The Revolution of Marina M. Then it took me almost all of January to read it. Unlike her other books, I just couldn’t fall into this one.
The novel starts out with Marina in current day California and she begins to tell the story of how she got there, taking us back to pre-revolution St. Petersburg, Russia where she was a teenage poet of bourgeois parents.
Her life consists of poetry, music, school and dances. She harbors a secret crush on her older brother’s friend Kolya. She meets the politically active Varvara and begins to wake up to the world outside her own.
She follows Varvara in her Bolshevik work, protesting the government, rallying the workers, even spying on her own father. She begins a passionate affair with Kolya. She falls in love with a fellow poet, Genya.
Varvara turns her world upside when she reveals the spying to Marina’s father and she is thrown out of the house. She moves in with Genya and his gang of poets. For a time she is happy, extremely poor, but happy. Alas the revolution is moving like a steam roller and life is getting harder and harder for the citizens of St. Petersburg.
Kolya returns and she resumes her affair, breaking Genya’s heart, but he takes her back. It’s her mother’s presence that pushes Genya over the edge and she is once again thrown out of her home.
She ends up in the hands of a corrupt madman and barely escapes with her life. Kolya appears once again, but not for long, and she is soon living in a commune of young people in the country. In the end she will escape them as well, but the non-ending tells us there will be at least one more book.
The book is well researched and details quite a bit about the Russian Revolution from differing points of view as well as aptly painting the cityscape of St. Petersburg. It easily took me back to the streets and sights of this beloved city.
The characters are well developed and clearly defined. Marina is easy to sympathize with and her need to understand both sides of the issues is a great part of the book, perhaps the best part, as is her continued growth and strength. She may not always make the best choices, but she continuously learns from them and is stronger the next time, going from privileged young girl to self-sufficient young woman. The supporting characters play their parts in getting her there and are equally well developed.
The book is broken into multiple parts based on time periods and is about 800 pages long. It feels too long at points. You know Marina is going to be fine because she is telling the story from the present so the tension doesn’t build as much as it would without that insight. I didn’t care for the last section in the Ionia commune. Perhaps Fitch was trying to touch on the superstition and mystic nature of Russia, but to me that part of Russia is steeped in its history and traditions, not a hippy commune that read more like Haight-Ashbury.
Fitch is an excellent writer and the novel is a good read, just maybe too long and too slow in parts for my January state of mind. I’m not at all inspired to read the sequel.
√ a book set in a country that fascinates you – PopSugar