Cover image for The revolution of Marina M.
The revolution of Marina M.
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Little, Brown and Company, 2017.


Physical Description:
805 pages : map ; 25 cm
Marina Makarova is a woman of privilege who aches to break free of the constraints of her genteel life. Swept up on the tides of the Russian Revolution, Marina joins the marches for workers' rights, falls in love with a radical young poet, and betrays everything she holds dear, before being betrayed in turn. As her country goes through tremendous upheaval, Marina's own coming-of-age unfolds, marked by deep passion, devastating loss, and the private heroism of an ordinary woman living through extraordinary times.


Material Type
Shelf Number
Item Notes
Book FITCH, J. 1 .SOURCE. 12/17 BT
Book FITCH, J. 1 .SOURCE. BT 11-28-17
Book PS3556.I8155R48 2017 1

On Order

Prescott Public Library1On Order
Prescott Public Library1Received on 3/2/18
Cottonwood Public Library1Received on 11/30/17



From the mega-bestselling author of White Oleander and Paint It Black, a sweeping historical saga of the Russian Revolution, as seen through the eyes of one young woman

St. Petersburg, New Year's Day, 1916: Marina Makarova is as old as the century. A young woman of privilege, she writes poetry, dreams of a dashing young officer, and aches to break out of the constraints of her genteel life. But this life is about to be violently upended by the vast forces of history. Swept up on these tides, Marina will join the marches for workers' rights, fall in love with a radical young poet, spy for the Bolsheviks, and betray everything she holds dear, before being betrayed in turn.

As her country goes through almost unimaginable upheaval, Marina's own coming of age unfolds, marked by deep passion and devastating loss, great brutality and unexpected redemption, and the private heroism of an ordinary woman living through extraordinary times.

Written in lush, powerful prose by a master storyteller, The Revolution of Marina M. is a publishing event: the epic, mesmerizing story of one indomitable woman's journey through some of the most dramatic events of the last century.

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

In a break with her contemporary fiction, Fitch (White Oleander) has written an epic bildungsroman about a girl who lives through the Russian Revolution. In 1916 Petrograd, 16-year-old Marina Dmitrievna Makarova is an aspiring poet from a well-to-do background. Through her eyes, readers see the deprivations caused by World War I, the ouster of the czar, and the rise of the Bolsheviks. She loses her virginity to a friend, Kolya Shurov, on leave from his regiment, and falls in love with an impoverished fellow poet, Gena Kuriakin. With her friends, Jewish Mina and radical Varvara, she is swept up in the first wave of revolutionary fervor, for which her father kicks her out of the house. After a series of misadventures, including sexual enslavement, passing herself off as a boy, and running off with Kolya (now an enemy of the state), Marina finally finds sanctuary at her family's country estate, which has been taken over by a spiritualist cult. The resilient Marina has much in common with the modern heroines of the author's previous books and is a protagonist worth following. However, even though the book is well researched, the overlong narrative peters out. (Nov.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Booklist Review

Timed for the centenary of the Russian Revolution, this mammoth epic from best-seller Fitch (Paint It Black, 2006) presents this tumultuous epoch from the viewpoint of a passionate, resilient young woman. The daughter of a bourgeois St. Petersburg family in 1916, Marina Makarova is caught up by revolutionary fervor. First enamored of her older brother's friend, then irresistibly drawn to a Bolshevik poet, she finds her family relationships and friendships torn apart as the country's political and social order ruptures. With heightened immediacy, Fitch's novel presents a richly described, on-the-street view of the revolution's transformative, often violent throes in Marina's beloved and heartbreaking city, from the behavior of newly emboldened servants to rampant hunger and poverty, and speculators negotiating backroom deals. Fitch provides an excellent sense of history's unpredictability and shows how the desperate pursuit of survival leads to morally compromising decisions. It's unusual for a novel of this length to follow a single narrative thread, and the ending turns bizarre, but the momentum rarely slackens. Fitch's cinematic storytelling and Marina's vibrant personality are standout elements in this dramatic novel.--Johnson, Sarah Copyright 2017 Booklist

New York Review of Books Review

"I was in love with the Future, in love with the idea of Fate. There's nothing more romantic to the young - until its dogs sink their teeth into your calf and pull you to the ground": So says the young Marina Makarova early on in Janet Fitch's third novel, "The Revolution of Marina M.," a vast, ambitious historical tale in which the comingof-age of a quintessential revolutionary heroine dovetails with the events of October 1917. Marina ticks all the boxes for the prototypical heroine of novels set in this period: Her parents are liberal aristocrats, while she is a radical poetess - gorgeous, redhaired and curvaceous. Her friends, who include a dashing counterrevolutionary officer lover, a lesbian Bolshevik girlfriend and a bank-robbing baron with a taste for S-and-M, straddle all sides of the struggle. Over the course of more than 800 pages, Fitch conveys the importance of sex for a young woman's development with Rabelaisian earthiness, and Marina's liberation (at least until the novel plunges into the aforementioned S-and-M) reflects ideas and experiences that were quite common for her generation. Like Marina, the real women who became revolutionaries often hailed from noble families, perhaps the most famous of them being the Bolshevik Alexandra Kollontai, the Communist daughter of a czarist general. Women in this milieu endured prison sentences and Siberian exile but also enjoyed love affairs with male revolutionaries (some of whom they married). Kollontai especially was a trailblazer who, in tracts such as her 1921 essay "Theses on Communist Morality in the Sphere of Marital Relations," advocated free love in powerful, forward-thinking axioms: "Sexuality is a human instinct as natural as hunger or thirst." She believed that marriage was an oppressive bourgeois concept based on the presumption of female dependence on men, a notion that would be rendered obsolete under socialism, when both sexes would depend only on society. After the revolution, female Bolsheviks like Polina Zhemchuzhina, the wife of a Soviet foreign minister, and Dora Khazan, the wife of a Politburo member, became People's Commissars (or their deputies), or ministers in the Soviet government. Even so, Russian male chauvinism was deep, and Stalin distrusted these female activists both for their Jewishness and for their gender, ultimately firing and arresting several of them, including Zhemchuzhina. In Fitch's fictional version of this historical moment, following a confusing prologue set in Carmel, Calif., we begin in World War I Petrograd where Marina escapes her father's salon to be kissed in the cloakroom by an attractive officer and childhood acquaintance named Kolya Shurov. Afterward he goes back off to war, but in feverish Petrograd, revolution seethes. Their romance does not end there: When Kolya returns once again, he picks Marina up outside her school and takes her on a sleigh ride that leads to her first sexual experience. The passage inaugurates Marina's awakening; from here on out, she says, "I could not stop thinking about sex." As hunger, war and government incompetence herald the February Revolution, the teenage Marina joins the crowds in the streets, feeling the thunder of history in the making. "What is history?" she asks. "Is it the trace of a footstep in wet cement?" She goes on to answer her own question: "History is the sound of a floor underneath a rotten regime, termite-ridden and ready to fall." She witnesses everything from women's protests for food to the toppling of Czar Nicholas II. But never has the pace of the Russian Revolution progressed more sluggishly than it does in Fitch's hands. "Gunfire sounded throughout the following day," and we learn all the quotidian ways Marina finds to pass the time: "I played poker with the girls" and "rounds of chess with Mina"; "taught Dunya to waltz"; "won a bet with young Shusha by walking on my hands"; and "stood in the small kitchen, chopping cabbage." The metaphors come like Cossack charges, and one is never enough: "The crown of Russia had gone from most precious object to poisoned apple, a rotten, stinking potato nobody wanted." Since Marina plays no part in high politics, we learn of major events indirectly. The leader of the new provisional government, Premier Prince Lvov, proposes a document that "granted freedom of speech and assembly, the right to strike, a constituent assembly elected by universal and secret ballot, men and women alike," and much more. The author kindly lists all the measures outlined by this "daring piece of work," which nevertheless touches our protagonist's life only obliquely. But Marina does stand in the audience at the Cirque Moderne to hear Leon Trotsky herald Russia's "new epoch," describing him as "a caldron melting the crowd into a single substance, and we threw ourselves in." In the chaos of mid-1917, as the provisional government minister Alexander Kerensky becomes the dominant figure, Marina falls in love with a radical (but, for the reader, uninspired) poet named Genya, although Kolya remains the object of her true passion. Her best friend, the frizzyhaired aristocrat Varvara, becomes a Bolshevik activist whose speeches the book relates in full: "Far from improving the situation of the common people, the revolution in February has only increased your suffering," Varvara pontificates before a line of women on the street. "We, the Bolshevik Party, say down with the imperialists!" Varvara persuades Marina to inform the Bolsheviks of her father's political secrets. When he finds out she is sleeping with a poet and is a Communist spy, he disowns her. As Kerensky loses his prestige because of a series of military defeats and an attempted coup, Marina realizes the imminence of a Bolshevik takeover in a succession of familiar metaphors: "The world was cracking - I could hear it - like ice that had grown too thin to hold us." On the night of the October Revolution, she and Genya burst into the Winter Palace to find a "Blakean hell" of Red Guards' debauchery after they've just wrested power from the ministers of the provisional government. In the months after October 1917, Petrograd under the new Soviet Republic is increasingly threatened by not just famine, chaos and disease but also counterrevolution, factional betrayal and foreign intervention. Lenin (who will soon move the Russian capital to Moscow) deploys murder and terror to keep power. Amid all this public turmoil, Marina's personal life spins even more wildly out of control. She is kidnapped by the ruthless rapist and aristogangster Baron Arkady von Princip, who smells like "decaying pines." He lures her to an apartment for an excruciating 10page sadomasochistic marathon, during which Marina experiences a disturbing amalgam of pleasure, shame and fear. When Arkady subsequently tries to use her as a hostage in his criminal dealings, Marina's horrid father outs her as a Bolshevik spy. For all her progressive defiance, Marina is still treated by the more politically empowered men in her life as merely an object for degradation - the details of which are perhaps a little crass even for the most jaded reader. Marina, the reader concludes, is not a true revolutionary; she is tossed like flotsam by great events, and the novel would benefit were she more of a participant. Although Alexandra Kollontai's own free, dramatic love life shocked not just the bourgeoisie but also other revolutionaries, she still disapproved of precisely the kind of casual promiscuity in which Marina engages. In publicity materials, Fitch reveals her own lofty aspirations in her declared worship of Dostoyevsky's "Crime and Punishment": "I opened it, and there was my world." Yet somewhere in the middle of its 800 pages, this novel loses any semblance of her 19th-century forebear's sense of narrative control. That said, the feral descriptions of sex provide some of the novel's most amusing, if decidedly un-Dostoyevskian, moments. Amid public turmoil, the protagonist's personal life spins wildly out of control. SIMON SEBAG MONTEFIORE'S most recent history book is "The Romanovs: 1613-1918." His latest novel, "Red Sky at Noon," will be published in January.

Library Journal Review

Marking the centenary of the 1917 Russian Revolution comes Fitch's third adult novel. Can it achieve the blockbuster status of her White Oleander and Paint It Black? Teenager -Marina Makarova is blessed with privilege and a talent for writing poetry. She hangs with literary futurists in Petrograd (St. -Petersburg) and buys into their views of the failing tsarist regime. As successive governments crumble and the German war machine advances, she lives in the heart of the city's collapse. Her survival instincts pushed to just short of death, she finds her inner shapeshifter and wriggles out of trouble to fight another day. In the sweep and heft of her tribute to St. Petersburg's suffering during the years 1916-19, Fitch captures the epic grandeur of Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy, situating her characters in the pages of authentic history. Yet she also infuses her protagonists with -transgressive sexual energy á la E.L. James's Fifty Shades of Grey, vividly portraying 16-year-old Marina's sexual awakenings as she falls in and out of love. As a college student, Fitch concentrated on Russian studies, and she treats the facts with a historian's respect. Especially well done is the story line dealing with the vicious Cheka, the Soviet secret police. VERDICT Readers of Tolstoy, -Boris Pasternak, and Margaret Mitchell will thrill to this narrative of women in love during the cataclysm of war. [See Prepub Alert, 5/15/17.]-Barbara Conaty, Falls Church, VA © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.