Review: Blood Red Snow White

Blood Red Snow White
Blood Red Snow White by Marcus Sedgwick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Review to come…**Thank you to Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group for providing me a digital ARC of this novel via Netgalley for the purposes of review**

This book is fascinating. It gives the fictionalised account of Arthur Ransome, a young British journalist (and maybe spy?) and how he becomes swept up in the world of Russia during one of the bloodiest and most brutal parts of its history: the Russian Revolution. And yet this novel is not easily classified as a “historical fiction novel” — in the first place, it’s construction is that of three novellas that, while inextricably woven together and linked, are distinct. Secondly, the writing style is not what I’d call “traditional” as it comes to writing historical fiction; in fact Sedgwick tells his story more like a fairy tale than anything else.

And yet the style isn’t jarring or even odd for the subject matter: after all, Ransome did “run away to Russia” in order to collect Russian fairytales for his book. Therefore writing the novel in the style of a fairytale makes the whole thing almost meta in that regard. As if Ransome chose this style he’d chased before in order to recount the story of his own life. The fact that the style works is a testament to Sedgwick’s narrative prowess and beautifully consistent prose. I would almost want to call it whimsical, and perhaps there is a kind of dark whimsy to the entire story, but the harsh realities of the Russian Revolution — the lead up, the event, its aftermath — are never shied away from, and never glossed over in a way that minimizes this bloody bit of history.

While The Ghosts of Heaven will likely remain my favourite book by Sedgwick, Blood Red Snow White stands as a great triumph of a conceptual, stylistic experiment that passes with flying colours to create something unique, heartbreaking, and ultimately, rather enchanting.

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