One word dominating social and political spheres these days is Russia. Mr Putin may have thought he was the hand rocking the cradle in the invasion of Ukraine, but eleven months later, the only thing looking unsteady is his tenacious grip on power. Soon the population will tire of his foot soldiers heavy handed treatment of them. With the development of the digital age and social media, it’s hard to keep the wool pulled over your citizens and eventually, they will revolt. The only question is, when, and when they do, we may see a fourth Russian revolution, although probably not. But more of a swift and quiet removal by a party who fears the wrath of the little people. All the great nations of the world have experienced revolution at some time or another and Russia is not different, according to my research, there have been at least three, maybe four in Russia. The first one is the setting for this month’s first book review, its Small Acts of Kindness – A Tale Of The First Russian Revolution by Jennifer Antill and published by Universe ( www.unicornpublishing.org ) in November.
St Petersburg, 1825. Imperial Russia still basks in the glory of victory over Napoleon, but in the army and elsewhere resentment is growing against serfdom and autocracy. Vasily, a pleasure loving, privileged young man, returns home from abroad expecting to embark on a glittering career. Having become entangled in an impossible love affair, he joins a conspiracy to overthrow the government. Threatened by exile to Siberia or death, he is forced to flee the Tsar’s vengeance. Vasily hopes to rebuild his life in a distant provincial town. But he cannot forget his lost love, and now finds himself pursued by a rival who aims to destroy him. Can he escape the past, mend his broken relationships and find a better way to change the world?
I’d like to say I really go into this book, but with the time scale one has for reviewing books, I struggled to make any real dent into this weighty presentation. The first thing to put me off was a three-page list of characters, at the beginning. I do like history but taken in small manageable chunks.
Another reason for my apparent lack of concentration around this book, despite its connection to current world events, is that it was competing with a lot of other external distractions. Such as the World Cup, preparations for my mother’s eightieth, and the general furore that surrounds the build up to Christmas. Maybe if I was in Russia, it might be easier to read at this time of the year, seeing as their Christmas takes place in January.
On a positive side, the book comes across as a version of Les Misérables but set in Russia. Which may pique the interest of Andrew Lloyd-Webber fans.
This is English author Jennifer Antill’s ( http://www.jenniferantill.com ) first book. She studied Russian Language, Literature and Politics, at UCL SSEES, and has travelled widely in the country, often living with Russian families. She gives talks on Russian cultural topics to a wide variety of organisations. In a former life she worked in the City of London as an Investment Analyst and for eleven years served as a local councillor. Jennifer lives in Suffolk, with her husband and two sons.
If you are a lover of history and in particular Russian history, then this is right up your street or a perfect Christmas gift for someone who is. So, don’t delay order a copy online or get down to your local book shop, then wrap it up with a small bottle of vodka and get it in the post.
Reviewed by Adrian Murphy
This book review is part of a Random Things blog tour. To see what the other reviewers thought, visit their blogs listed below. Then if you get a copy, comeback and tell us what you though, we’d really appreciate the feedback.