She came from Russia, she had a thirst for revolution…

First up, I feel bad saying bad things about novels (unless the author is dead, and especially if the author is Thomas Hardy, then I’m more than happy). Simon Sebag Montefiore has never rocked up at my job and pronounced all my embalming to be substandard, and that my people resemble a Buzzfeed list of comedy taxidermy mistakes. Writing is very hard,and his non-fiction history books are bang on, but when it comes to writing about teenage girls, I think he overreached.

I got Sashenka out of the library as I fancied a big, exciting novel with lots of danger and peril, and to be factually accurate with the Russian Revolution was a bonus. It is the story of a rich girl getting involved with revolutionaries, wanting to spend the night in prison, relishing how dirty her clothes get, wanting to wear the rough coats of the peasants and not her lavish furs…cue Jarvis…

 

And while I absolutely think rich folk should be applauded for fighting for the rights of the poor, as Jarvis points out, there’s a difference between those who are trapped in inequality and poverty and those choosing to visit. Sashenka loves the excitement, her heart thumps on her scary missions, but after her dad gets her out of prison when a poor person would have been hanged, and it’s hard to feel anything for her. Only once did I connect with this essentially dappy teenager, and that was when she had to deal with her drunken, tarty mother, who knocks about with Rasputin. Otherwise, for most of the book I felt I’d have happily dobbed her into the Okhrana myself.

But it has to be said, the copy I got from the library did not deserve the treatment it received regarding cover art. When I searched for the book up online it looked like this –

However, possibly to ensnare the romance and Catherine Cookson crowd, this is the cover the library hardback has –

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Not since Wordsworth Classics’ repeated attacks on War and Peace have I seen such a cavalier attitude to the fundamentals of good taste.

And who can forget their ‘Dude Where’s My Axe? (oh wait, it’s here in my hand—sweet!)’ approach to Crime and Punishment?

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Luckily Tolstoy and Dostoevsky aren’t alive to see their work depicted as the kind of mini-series that turned up on Sky One twenty years ago when only rich relatives has satellite dishes, or teen comedies featuring actors with last names for first names, but Montefiore has likely seen the chick-lit version of his book. Poor chap.

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