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4.0 out of 5 starsFurnivall takes the reader into the heart of the Russian forced labour camps
Reviewed in the United States on November 26, 2012
In Under a Blood Red Sky, Kate Furnivall manages to skilfully evoke Russia during the early years of the Communist regime and the fear and tension during that time. Characteristic of Furnivall, there is also a love story at the heart of this novel that drives the plot and makes the reader feel all that her characters feel - desperation, determination and hope .The two heroines, Sophia and Anna find themselves in unbelievably harsh circumstances and only their courage, their love for each other, and Anna's love for her long lost Vassily keep them alive. Furnivall gets inside the forced labour camps and allows the reader to really feel what it must have been like for the female prisoners. If you enjoyed her more renowned Concubine...series you will enjoy Under a Blood Red Sky - although the pace is a little slow at times, the story has a similar feel and is a very enjoyable read.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it kept me enthralled and horrified at man's inhumanity to man as was portrayed in the women's camp. The main characters were completely believable and the insight into early communism was really interesting. A good read from beginning to end.
the plight of those poor women, unbelievable what they went through ,and the courage of Sofia, you feel you were fight there with her in her trials, and they were able to liberate these women from that awful camp. I have seen a film that was similar, but depressing as there didnt seem any hope for the inmates, but in this book there was hope. Incredible that anyone could survive such conditions, the cruelty of that regime beggars belief
I liked the narrative from revolution right through to the mid 1930’s. It gave real. Insight into the insecure frightening world of harsh reality of life and yet allowed the reader to understand the powerful emotions that can drive the human spirit beyond endurance. A marvellous read from start to finish with so many twists and turns in the dramatic story
3.0 out of 5 starsMagic Realism or Gritty Russian Drama?
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 14, 2012
Over the summer I'm reading through my pile of 'lighter-reads that I bought and never got round to reading' and this is one of them, a tale of romance, magic and struggle against tyranny, set in Russia in the mid-1930s. Sofia and Anna have both been imprisoned in a Siberian Labour camp: Anna for her aristocratic background, Sofia for being the daughter of a priest and the niece of a farmer who did too well and thus incurred the State's suspicion. Early in their acquaintance, Anna saves Sofia's life and Sofia vows to do the same for her if needed. So when Anna becomes seriously ill with tuberculosis, Sofia decides to do what seems impossible - to escape the labour camp, and find the one person she believes can bring Anna back to health: Vassily, Anna's childhood sweetheart, who she last saw the day that her father and his parents were shot by the Bolsheviks, many years before. Being blessed with incredible good luck, Sofia escapes the camp and survives a long tramp with virtually no food, until she reaches the small village of Tivil, where she has been tipped off that Vassily is living under an assumed name. She is taken in by a gypsy, Rafik, who has the extraordinary gift of being able to influence people's thoughts and hypnotize them into doing his bidding, and who trusts her from the start. Settled in Rafik's home, Sofia begins to search for Vassily. And thus begins a complicated tale of treachery, mistaken identity, betrayal, true love and magic.
All credit to Furnival, she can tell a 'rattling good yarn', and keep her reader's interest going from start to finish. There was also some interesting material about life in Russia under the Communists though I agree with the reader who thought that Furnival softened some of the horrors of the Stalinist regime. However, it's not a book that I found bore thinking about too much - if one did try to read it with much concentration, or pondered much on the plot, it began to seem very implausible. For example, if Anna was dying of tuberculosis at the start of the novel, how did she survive for so long (and manage to carry on working, and at one point have strength to attack and kill someone)? If Sofia had been starving in Siberia for so long, would everyone really have been taken aback by her beauty and composure? Why wasn't Sofia more frightened, after all she'd been through? Why did she and Mikhail fall so quickly in love? Why did Mikhail suddenly become so swashbuckling? What was Fomenko actually up to? And I felt that Rafik the hypnotizing gypsy tended to turn up in the nick of time rather too often, and that the supernatural elements in the novel seemed to sit slightly uneasily with the rest - I know that superstition and belief in magic are very much part of Russian folk culture, but it was rather clumsily handled here, particularly the material about 'the magic stone'.
I tended to think that the novel sat rather uneasily between realism, romance and fantasy in terms of genre. If you want magical realism, you might be better off with Bulgakov, or with the South American writers such as Isabel Allende or Gabriel Garcia Marquez; for material about Communist Russia I'd tend to recommend something slightly less 'romantic': Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago, for example, or, from English writers, Helen Dunmore's 'The Siege' or 'The Betrayal', or Meaghan Delahunt's 'In the Blue House'. Or of course Orlando Figes's excellent non-fiction books. This novel is good switch-off entertainment but I didn't feel it went much further.
I loved this book and the characters portrayed. What a terrible existence for so many Russians in the labour camps. How anybody survived is a miracle. The mystery talents of certain members of the gypsy population provide an enticing aspect of the story but most of all it's the characters that make the book so very enjoyable
A very good book, though I found some of the plot improbable given the period described. The characters are varied and the style is all right. It seems the author has done some reseach, so the events are not completely invented. However it's more of a romance, though.