Monday, October 23, 2017

The Revolution of Marina M by Janet Fitch, an epic novel of the Russian Revolution

Timed for the centenary of the Russian Revolution, this mammoth epic from best-seller Fitch (Paint It Black, 2006) presents this tumultuous epoch from the viewpoint of a passionate, resilient young woman.

The daughter of a bourgeois St. Petersburg family in 1916, Marina Makarova finds herself caught up by revolutionary fervor. First enamored of her older brother’s friend, then irresistibly drawn to a Bolshevik poet, she finds her family relationships and friendships torn apart as the country’s political and social order ruptures.

With heightened immediacy, Fitch’s novel presents a richly described, on-the-street view of the revolution’s transformative, often violent throes in Marina’s “beloved and heartbreaking city,” from the behavior of newly emboldened servants to rampant hunger and poverty, and speculators negotiating backroom deals. Fitch provides an excellent sense of history’s unpredictability and shows how the desperate pursuit of survival leads to morally compromising decisions.

It’s unusual for a novel of this length to follow a single narrative thread, and the ending turns bizarre, but the momentum rarely slackens. Fitch’s cinematic storytelling and Marina’s vibrant personality are standout elements in this dramatic novel.

The Revolution of Marina M will be published by Little, Brown in November (hb, $30/ebook, $15.99, 816pp).  This review was submitted to Booklist for publication in the Oct 15th issue.

As you'll see, I was kept busy reading over the summer, with this lengthy novel, the previous one (Time's Betrayal, at over 1100 pages), and a couple of others whose reviews are forthcoming. For readers interested in the Russian Revolution of 1917 and its aftermath, I hope to post a reading list of additional historical novels in the near future.


  1. Anonymous3:07 PM

    I've got a copy of THE WINTER STATION by Jody Shields which I'm looking forward to reading. I also look forward to your fiction list; there's already been a lot of NF published this year on the subject.

    Sarah OL

  2. This reminds me that I meant to post my list but hadn't gotten around to it yet - sometime within the next couple of weeks, I hope! The Winter Station was going to be on it.