01 October 2008

Under a Blood-Red Sky (Kate Furnivall)

Available at all good bookstores, courtesy of Penguin Books South Africa

Sofia and Anna are imprisoned together in Siberia’s Davinsky Labour Camp in 1933 – and inseparable. When Anna becomes gravely ill, Sofia promises to escape the camp and return with Vasily: the long-lost love of Anna’s life and the chief character in the decades-old, desperately remembered and often retold stories that have, so far, kept the two women alive.

But Sofia’s dangerous quest drives her to a remote village in the Urals, where she discovers an unusual community. Fraught with the ugly betrayals that simmer beneath the dusty streets walked by Stalin-era bolsheviks, mensheviks, kulaks and assorted revolutionaries, it is also a town in which gypsy magic and white arts work hard to keep the good people safe.

Like The Russian Concubine, Kate Furnivall’s last novel of love, loss and liberation in the pre-revolutionary East, Under a Blood-Red Sky is wonderfully drawn portrait of the little people who writhe beneath totalitarian fists. Its love stories also ring beautifully true, based as they are on the part-Russian author’s belief that “…love is also a fundamental reason for survival. Love of someone, of one's family. Or of an ideal. It is like girders round the soul; it gives you strength.”


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