Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Blood Red Snow White by Marcus Sedgwick -- Optional

Sedgwick, Marcus.  Blood Red Snow White.  296 pages.  Roaring Book Press, 2007.  $17.99.  Language: PG (31 swears); Sexual Content: PG-13 (prostitutes, affairs, and Rasputin without clothes), Violence: PG. 
“Beyond the sunrise, halfway to the moon, and so very far away it would make your feet weep to think about it, lies a land vast in size and sadness.” 

The story is part fairytale, part fictionalized biography of author Arthur Ransome, and part historical narrative of the Russian revolution.  Arthur Ransome traveled to Russia, taught himself the language, and wrote a children’s book based on Russian folktales.  The author, Sedgwick, uses Ransome’s characters in this book tell the story of hunger and despair experienced by common folk and why they eventually killed the Tsar and his family.  The Tsar tries to hold on to his power and kills innocent people, while his wife allows the notorious Rasputin free reign because she thinks he can save her son who is a hemophiliac.  Arthur’s life story is also weaved in.  He left his wife he couldn’t live with and his daughter he would always love and went to Russia.  He worked as a newspaper man and continues to write after the Bolsheviks take power.  He falls in love with Trotsky’s secretary, Evgina and she becomes his mistress.  Arthur is asked by his friend Lockhart to become a British spy.  Other British officers think that Arthur is a Bolshevik spy.  Arthur must decide who or what he is truly loyal to.   

Sedgwick’s writing is sophisticated and the style is a literary masterpiece.  However, Arthur is not a very identifiable character for a teenage audience.  He is a middle-aged man with a Russian mistress; neither of which really have a personality.  They serve as chess pieces in the larger historical story without having voices of their own or character development. 
HS-OPTIONAL.  Samantha Hastings, MA, MLS. 

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