Unfortunately I was unable to finish this book – which is not something that happens to me very often. I hadn’t heard of Under a Blood Red Sky (also published under the title The Red Scarf) until I saw it in the library and I thought I’d give it a try as I love historical fiction set in Russia. It sounded interesting:
Anna and Sofia are two women who meet whilst imprisoned in a Soviet labour camp in the 1930s and become best friends. When Anna becomes ill, Sofia comes up with a daring plan to run away from the camp and find help. Anna has told her about a childhood friend, Vasily, who is now living under an assumed name in the town of Tivil. After successfully escaping, Sofia heads for Tivil to look for Vasily and ask him to return to the camp with her to save Anna.
However, right from the beginning of the book I felt we were being asked to accept things that weren’t plausible. The whole plot was just too far-fetched for me. The other (bigger) problem I had with this book was that I couldn’t connect with any of the characters. Although they were constantly putting their lives at risk and facing unimaginable horrors under Stalin’s communist regime, I found I didn’t really care what happened to them. Sofia was one of those model heroines – beautiful, brave, intelligent and perfect. Everybody seemed to be captivated by her and I couldn’t really understand why. She just didn’t feel like a real person to me. Of course, there were some situations that even Sofia couldn’t deal with – that’s where the gypsy Rafik came in, using mesmerism and mind-control to overcome obstacles. I thought the whole magical aspect of the book seemed a bit out of place.
I tried to keep reading, thinking the book might get better but when I found I was almost halfway through and still wasn’t enjoying it, I decided not to waste any more time on it and put it down with a sigh of relief. I’m glad I had borrowed this book from the library instead of spending money on it – at least I didn’t lose anything apart from a couple of days when I could have been reading something else.
Genre: Historical Fiction/Pages: 512/Publisher: Sphere/Year: 2008/Source: Library book