This Dusty Bookshelf: The Red Scarf

The Red Scarf
By Kate Furnivall

When I picked this novel up, I didn’t realize that it was technically classified as a romance. In reality, the plot doesn’t give away it’s true nature at all. But, as I flipped through the last pages and felt the nausea finally subside, I was reminded why, exactly, I try to avoid romances.

I’m getting ahead of myself.

The Red Scarf has a delightful premise: two women meet and fall into friendship in a Russian labour camp, suffering side-by-side in true solidarity under some of the harshest conditions ever imposed by human beings on human beings. Anna and Sofia share stories back and forth to help them survive, but slowly, the hard work, the harsh winter, and the lack of food is wearing them down. Sofia realizes Anna won’t survive another winter. She escapes and begins on a wild adventure to find Anna’s one true love Vasily – and his mother’s jewelry – in order to persuade him to help her save Anna from another winter in such harsh conditions.

And then she finds Vasily and falls in love with him herself.

The books started off wonderfully. I loved the depiction of the friendship between the two women, the sacrifice and love they shared. I loved Anna and Sofia’s stories, their journey through childhood as Russia fell apart around them and the cruel reality they were living through. I even loved the story of Sofia’s escape and the story of the village of Tivil. I thought things would get really interesting as she met and fell in love with Anna’s Vasily.

But, it started to drag, too many words crammed into not enough story, inflating the page count but not pushing the reader though them. I had no complaint with the writing itself and, in fact, the words were strung together quite well, I thought – not masterfully, but well. There was just too much of it.

And then, everything fell apart because everything ended up too neat. I know that sounds contradictory, but in literature, it’s absolutely not. There could have been so much complication and human confusion as the characters faced hard, unfair situations. Literature is not made beautiful by bad things happening and then, suddenly, conveniently unhappening. Literature is made beautiful by bad things happening and characters reacting in ways that are so perfect, or imperfect, or cruel, or sacrificial, or true.

This book will add nothing to your life. There are so many other books to read. Don’t bother with this one.

(I’m cringing as I write that last sentence. This is the first book review I’ve written for a book I really didn’t like! Turns out, I have a hard time writing a book bashing review. I love books, and I always want to support the people who write them, but I also want to always be unshakably honest. Dear Kate Furnivall, please don’t hate me – but I think you can do better.)

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