- Fizzy Thoughts: The Red Scarf

The Red Scarf

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Red Scarf
Kate Furnivall
July 2008
470 pages

It’s 1933. Sofia and Anna are prisoners at Davinsky Labor Camp. In Siberia. That means it’s freakin’ cold and they spend all day working to build a road under the watchful (and lecherous) eyes of guards. Work is important, because it’s the only way to get food. Actually, there are other ways too, because as previously mentioned, the guards are lecherous. But Sofia and Anna don’t like to go there, so we’ll move on.

Anna has a gift for storytelling, and she tells Sofia all about her childhood in Petrograd, before the Revolution. About her father the doctor, about her governess, her fur coats, and especially, her friend Vasily. Although Vasily got caught up in the Revolution, Sofia is convinced he is their only hope. Because Anna is sick, and dying, and Sofia knows she cannot get her out of the labor camp on her own.

So Sofia sets out on her own. She escapes the labor camp and travels through Russia without identity papers to find Tivil, the small village where Vasily supposedly is.

I was so into this book right up to this point. The descriptions of the labor camp, and the struggle for survival all seemed so realistic. I knew Sofia was half in love with Vasily just from Anna’s stories alone, and there was potential for future conflict and drama.

Then…whammo. It seemed to morph into another book. Sure there were still stories of the struggle to survive under Stalin and collectivization (communism isn’t faring too well in this book) and flashbacks to the labor camp and childhood. But there was also the introduction of a gypsy family and their mysterious mind control powers and how that was important to the survival of Tivil. It got a little woo-woo. Not that there’s anything wrong with woo-woo, but it didn’t really float my boat in the midst of a story about labor camps and communism. And then everybody’s identities got all confusing, and phooey, the book just lost it’s mojo.

This is the author who wrote The Russian Concubine, which I haven’t read. I keep seeing it around, but I think I’ll skip it.

2 comment(s):

chartroose said...

Damn, I hate it when the plot all of a sudden devolves into something else right in the middle of a novel, especially if you're enjoying the story. Authors should remember that they're writing for an audience as well as themselves.

Dar said...

I hate it too when authors do that especially with a topic like labor camps and struggling to survive. That's a topic all on its own. I get really ticked off when that happens-you're lovin the story and then whammo-you're not liking it so much anymore. Hope the next one you read left you more impressed.

In a real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read. It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish. ~S.I. Hayakawa

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
~St. Augustine

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.
~Mark Twain

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