Book Reviews

Book Review: Who Is to Blame?

Who Is to Blame? A Russian RiddleDescription from the back of the book:

Jane Marlow’s debut novel is a beautifully written historical saga of two families—one born of noble heritage and the other bound as serfs to the noble’s household. Set during the mid-1800s in the vast grainfields of Russia, Who Is to Blame? follows the lives of two star-crossed serfs, Elizaveta and Feodor, torn apart by their own families and the Church while simultaneously trapped in the inhumane life of poverty to which they were born.

At the other end of the spectrum, Count Maximov and his family struggle to maintain harmony amidst a tapestry of deception and debauchery woven by the Count’s son. The plot twists further when the Tsar emancipates twenty million serfs from bondage as the rural gentry’s life of privilege and carelessness has taken its final bow, while much of Russia’s nobility faces possible financial ruin.

Aficionados of historical fiction will be captivated by the lyrical flow of Marlow’s intertwining stories of love, loss, courage, and pain against her backdrop of social upheaval. The novel’s riddles flow subtly throughout, spurring readers to ponder where the blame actually lies. In the end, we must tap into our own hearts to navigate the depths and quandaries of the author’s perplexing question.

My thoughts:

I have a fascination with Russian culture and love literature and movies set there. This book offers a unique look at life during Russia’s Imperialist period. Reminiscent of War and Peace this family saga is tense from start to finish. We follow the life of a serf by the name of Elizavetta and the family of Count Maximov, each story equally dysfunctional.

This is not a book that romanticizes history. It’s a harsh gritty look at life during this time period. I recommend this book for a cold winter night with a hot cup of tea.

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