ARC Book Review: The Revolution of Marina M by Janet Fitch
ashley | White Oleander by Janet Fitch was one of the first books I remember reading that had a huge impact on me. It was one of the first books I read that meant more to me than just a book I had to read for school, or a book that took me to another world that was full of life and happiness. It was dark, it had angst, it really resonated with me as a teen. So reading Fitch’s new book, The Revolution of Marina M was a little nostalgic for me. While I didn’t expect a comparison, I couldn’t help but hope I’d be just as transformed after reading it.
Sadly, this was a hard book for me to get into. It was very much reminiscent of classic Russian literature, which admittedly I always have a hard time reading; the beginning was so very heavy on Russian and political history, which isn’t usually what I gravitate towards, and I found I had to drag myself through the first few chapters while the scene was set. A lot of work must have gone into the research of this book; it was written beautifully and very rich, the historical aspects surrounding the Russian Revolution were very detailed and Fitch did a great job of building a story from this, but I had a really tough love/hate relationship with the book, especially in the beginning.
In terms of inspiring, revolutionary characters, I can’t say I liked Marina all that much in the start. That wasn’t because she wasn’t relateable, just the opposite, she was TOO relateable. Which is usually a good thing, but here, it limited me from liking and believing her because she seemed too much like a phony. She had revolutionary and bohemian intentions and aspirations, but she came from a bourgeois family who didn’t really know what it was like to be hungry, to be poor, to be the working class. Even when she abandoned that life and lived among the poets, a poet herself, I still didn’t fully believe it, still didn’t think she fully fit in, and I don’t think she fully believed that she did either.
This is wonderfully accurate and likely what a lot of people would have been like in that situation, however I started to feel somewhat annoyed with her flippant behaviour. She didn’t show any loyalty, she often just tried to find the situation that would benefit her most at the time without any real idea of what she was doing. It wasn’t until she was stripped fully of everything she knew, everything she thought she was, and horribly mistreated, that I finally felt more affection towards her. That likely said a lot more about me than the book, but also created an intriguing growth in the character which completely shifts the tone of the book.
This is the point where I stopped struggling and was able to fully embrace and enjoy the story. The politics were a bit more subdued and Marina’s story started to take center stage. I found this a lot more interesting, her dealing with the repercussions of the decisions she’s made, her struggling with her passions and her drive, her desires and her loyalty. This was touched upon previously but it was from that point on that you really saw the hard choices and the decisions she was making and where it was leading her. You saw everything she held close, her dignity and morals, thrown to the wayside. This was now about survival.
There was a lot of sex in this book; it wasn’t gratuitous but it was graphic and sometimes not so nice. Marina was trying to find her own revolution, to control her life, she was sexually empowered in the sense that she was aware of and embraced her own desires and wasn’t afraid to enjoy herself, but she made decisions without thinking of the consequences and this often landed her in the hands of powerfully political men (and women) who saw her as nothing more than an object to abuse in various ways. It was heartbreaking and hard to read sometimes, but also seemed to fit really well against the revolutionary background, giving that darkness to an already dark time.
The ending was anti-climactic. A few people have pointed out in other reviews that it ended abruptly because it was going to be continued in a sequel. This was disappointing for me. After reading 800+ pages, I was hoping for a bit more of a satisfied ending. I also felt that there wasn’t really much to follow up with and I’m pretty confident that I wouldn’t read a sequel to this. I’ve spent my time with Marina, I’ve followed her through the trenches, I don’t think I see a need to follow her anywhere else.
I will admit that my knowledge of and interests in Russian history is limited, as is my familiarity with Russian literature, but The Revolution of Marina M was on par with the little that I do know and was a very in-depth, dark, somewhat cold tale of love, loss and the revolution.
november 7, 2017