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Sun, Sept. 15

'The Revolution of Marina M' by Janet Fitch

Janet Fitch, author of "White Oleander" (an Oprah pick made into a movie staring Michelle Pfeiffer and Renée Zellweger) has now written an incredibly gripping page-turner of a book, "The Revolution of Marina M." This impeccably researched historical novel is set in St. Petersburg (newly christened, Petrograd), Russia of 1916-19. It begins at a New Year’s Eve party in 16-year-old Marina’s very privileged home, where jurists, journalists and diplomats mix with artists, poets and mystics, and, despite the war, drink the best champagne, and feast from a table laid out displaying roast goose with lingonberries, salad Olivier, sturgeon, sea bass, Napoleons — in short, the works. In normal times, this would be the world Marina would continue to enjoy as she progressed to the university and coming out balls. But, of course, this world is about to disintegrate into the devastation of the Russian Civil War.

Marina has just had her first book of poems published and longs to speed up her experience of real life; she and her adventurous friends break free and make their way into the Stray Dog Café, a famous haven for famous poets and artists of all kinds. It is here she gets her first glimpse of the revolution to come. Idealistic, romantic, and eager to be with the people (“the last shall be first and the first shall be dammed”), she gets swept up into marches for workers' rights, falls in love with a radical young poet, and turns away from her class to live like a worker. But soon the revolution itself falls apart as Lenin and Trotsky’s Bolshevik fights with the autocracy, and various Bolshevik factions begin to split off and fight against each other on the way to the Red Terror. Then every class, workers, peasants, bourgeoisie all struggle to survive the ensuing horrors of purges, starvation and disease. The book recounts the incredible story of the many selves this passionate, intelligent and strong girl-becoming-woman, Marina Makarova, finds within herself in order to stay alive. Believe me, it will keep you turning pages relentlessly.

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