There never was a story that was happy through and through.
When writer Arthur Ransome leaves his unhappy marriage in England and moves to Russia to work as a journalist, he has little idea of the violent revolution about to erupt. Unwittingly, he finds himself at its center, tapped by the British to report back on the Bolsheviks even as he becomes dangerously, romantically entangled with Trotsky’s personal secretary.
Both sides seek to use Arthur to gather and relay information for their own purposes . . . and both grow to suspect him of being a double agent. Arthur wants only to elope far from conflict with his beloved, but her Russian ties make leaving the country nearly impossible. And the more Arthur resists becoming a pawn, the more entrenched in the game he seems to become.
This is a really interesting novel centered around the Russian Revolution. I’ve never read any books that take place in this time period and I needed to look up a lot of things about the Romanovs, Lenin & Trotsky, and the rise of the Bolsheviks. While this book has been marketed as a fairy tale retelling, it’s not really related to fairy tales. It’s a historical fiction novel centered around people who really existed while containing allegories to fairy tales.
This book is divided into three parts, the first part a fairy tale, the second a spy story, and the third a love story. The first part was by far my favourite. It had the atmosphere of a fairy tale and there was a certain charm and romance to the story. I was really surprised by the fact that all these people really existed in history and this story closely resembled their lives. I’m not sure how much of this novel is based on fact, but the main character, Arthur Ransome, was a real person who did have ties to both Britain and Russia.
My main issue with this novel was the fact that after the first part of the novel, the magic was lost for me and the story was solely centered around Arthur and his Russian girlfriend. The spy story and the love story weren’t as interesting or engaging to read about. While I did learn a lot while reading this novel, it wasn’t fast-paced at all. I feel that I were more knowledgeable about Russian history, Tsarism, or Bolshevism, I would have enjoyed this story a little more.
I also found it really difficult to connect with Arthur. Since he was a real person, it felt really strange to be judging him for his life choices, but I couldn’t help it. There wasn’t any character growth to Arthur. It was a really superficial characterization and I never empathized with him or his love story.
Personally, I felt like this book was falsely marketed. The fairy tale aspect was too short and I while I did like reading this book, I was disappointed because I was expecting something else. However, it was interesting and educational and I recommend it to people who enjoy novels centered around Russia.
I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This has not affected my review in any way.