Isn’t it magical how you approach books? I saw this in W. H. Smith about 5 years ago and before I’d even read the title I was hooked on it. I have the hardback edition, and I genuinely feel that the texture of the pages, the colour of the writing, the beauty infused to it to submerge the reader into it’s world. Well played Orion Books.
When people ask me for book recommendations I always mention this one, it’s in my top list and has been there since I read it, which is an achievement because I’m the magpie of the book world. And I will tell you for why…
Set in the grip of Russia’s communist revolution Blood Red Snow White is a mix of historical fiction, creative non-fiction, biography, fairy tale, spy thriller and love story. Squished into 300 pages. I was impressed by the sheer amount of trust that Sedgwick has in his readers. To mix these genre’s take guts for the writer, but patience from the reader to allow them to flit and pick between mediums. This is combined with a distinctive ‘Sedgwick’ tone. The best analogy for this book is to imagine it on top of a black (red) Venetian mirror, and just when temptation gets too much and you reach out to take it you realise that is has been behind the mirror all along.
I have studied the Russian Revolution (GCSE History came in handy!) and so I ‘got’ many of the references to Russian culture at that time, the research that has gone into this novel is brilliant. However, the novel is beautiful even if you don’t know a lot.
There are several layers of view point in the novel, you have the fairytale Bear of Russia following in the shadows adding in beautiful interludes of passion and fantasy. Alongside that there is the background of the revolution literally overthrowing and transforming a country. Out of the mist comes Arthur Ransome, broken from a love-less marriage and the love for his daughter, and consumed with trying to collect the pieces of the revolution, not to help the country but to report back to England. It is here that the reader is given a HQ, which allows them to wonder, guided, through the streets of the broken jigsaw that is Russia.
The first two sections of the book play out like this, the first being mainly fairy tale-esq and the second more spy thriller with the historical and biographical supporting it all. The third section has had a bit of bad press from reviews and I can understand that. Taking into account that Sedgwick is a pre-adult writer the final part had to happen as it does. It still has the beautiful gothic undertones but hurries to neaten the package to some extent. However, I felt for the characters until page 304 and beyond, I’m pretty sure that’s all that matters.