Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Revolution of Marina M

Title:  The Revolution of Marina M
Author:  Janet Finch
Publication Information:  Little Brown and Company. 2017. 816 pages.
ISBN:  0316022063 / 978-0316022064

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Rocking on the razor-musseled bay, lulled by the sleepy toll of buoy bells, the music of riggings, the eloquent stanzas of waves, I wait for news form the sea."

Favorite Quote:  "Sometimes just living is heroism."

As you might suspect from the title, this book is about the young woman Marina in the context of an actual revolution - the Russian Revolution. The background setup of the main character and the historical framework is my reason for choosing the book. Marina is the daughter of a well-to-do Russian family. Her father is involved with the powers who rule, and Marina gets involved with the ideology of the revolution. She is also a teenager, sixteen, on the cusp of defining her own ideas independently from those of her family. This framework sets up an interesting perspective on the history.

Sadly, that is not the story I read. For me, Marina ends up neither a likable nor a sympathetic character. Her father describes her as follows, "For someone who claims to be so sensitive to the plight of the common man, you're embarrassingly self-involved." A friend describes her actions as, "bourgeois baby wants to play the proletarian." Both are said in anger, but unfortunately both capture the image of Marina that comes through.

To make matters worse, big parts of the book center on Marina's sex life with multiple partners - consensual and forced. Mind you, she is portrayed as sixteen years old at the beginning of the book. In her own words, "I certainly liked being handled by men. Sex, the life of the senses, it was very strong in my nature." The descriptions are unfortunately also at times graphic and at times violent. This does make the book dark and disturbing in a way that has nothing to do with the history it is setting out to bring to life. This aspect of the book is to me completely unexpected. Perhaps the "revolution" in the title is meant to a sexual one not just a literal one. I think not. Regardless, this type of reading is not for me, especially not when it features a sixteen year old.

The theme of Marina's relationship with her father recurs throughout the book. Sadly, he and most of the other characters in the are presented only from Marina's point of view and captured in the wide sea of events and characters the book attempts to capture. None of them become real. Consequently, Marina's feelings (anger? hate? disappointment? sadness?) towards him or any of the other characters don't feel genuine.

The perspective on the historical setting is clouded by these characteristics being ascribed to Marina. The book clearly shows that research was done into the Russian revolution. However, then it appears that it was attempted to fit every aspect into Marina's story. Families split apart, students, protests, military, war, smuggling, violence, scientists, communal living, spiritual leaders. The list goes on and on. At over eight hundred pages, a lot is encompassed into this story. In this case, more is definitely not better. After a while, it becomes some historical tidbit superimposed onto the characters in the book and into Marina's sex life. Once again, not for me.

After making it through all that, the book has an abrupt end with no real closure. Come to find out, this book is not only long but also not complete. A sequel is planned. Unfortunately, this is not a story I care to continue.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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