Monday, September 1, 2008

Survival and Friendship

Kate Furnivall, an English writer, discovered as an adult that her very English mother was not English at all. Her mother had fled Russia, as a child, with her parents and emigrated first, to China and then to England. Having learned of her new heritage Ms. Furnivall vowed to learn everything she could about her newly discovered ancestors and their ravished country. She then wrote two novels about Russian women who survived the Bolshevik revolution. Her first novel “The Russian Concubine” was published in 2007.

Kate Furnivall’s second novel “The Red Scarf” is an historical fictionalized novel that begins in the Davinsky labor camp in Siberia, Russia in 1933. Two young Russian women are struggling to survive the cruel treatment, harsh labor and sub zero temperatures in this compound known as “The Zone”. The author’s stark descriptions of the hardship of the camp, the extreme cold, the lack of food, and the inhumane cruelty of the guards, give the reader a vivid sense of the horror that took place at this time in history.

Sofia Morozova, the daughter of a Russian Orthodox priest, is sentenced to ten years in the compound. There she meets, Anna Fedorina, the daughter of a Russian aristocrat who was killed in Petrograd during the revolution. In the camp Anna saves Sofia’s life when her hand is seriously injured and an subsequent infection threatens her life. As the young women struggle daily to survive, they begin to tell each other stories of their lives before the camp. Anna’s stories of her wonderful childhood in Petrograd and her love for her childhood friend, Vasily, enchant Sofia. When Anna develops a violent cough that will not go away, Sofia vows to escape from the camp and bring help to Anna.

Sofia’s brave escape and difficult journey through the forests of Siberia bring her to the village of Tivil, where she believes she will find Vasily, who will rescue Anna. The story meanders as Sofia is taken in by a family of gypsies and she finds love in the village. But, the heroine cannot forget the reason she in Tivil. She must find Vasily and convince him to return to the labor camp and rescue Anna. In the village there are many characters, and events that interact to tell this story of life under Stalin, in Pre World War II Russia. It is very interesting to read and learn about this dark period in history for the people of Russia.

The last part of the story is steeped with drama and the ending seems too contrived. But, Kate Furnivall has written a captivating historical novel with strong, likable characters that is interesting and intriguing to read.

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