Blood Red Snow White
Marcus Sedgwick




The time for princes and Tsars and holy madmen was gone. In its place came a world of war and revolution, tanks and telephones, murder and assassination. Beyond the vast plains, deep in the snowy forest, the great bear that is Russia wakes from a long sleep and marches to St Petersburg to claim its birthright.

Its awakening will mark the end for the Romanovs, and herald an era that will change the world. In 1917, the Bolsheviks hold power in the newly-names Petrograd. Lenin and Trotsky govern from palaces where the Tsars once danced till dawn. Another man played a part in it all; his name was Arthus Ransome, a journalist and writer who left his English home, his wife and daughter, and fell in love with Russia, and a Russian woman, Evgenia. This is his story.

At times bleak, at other rich, poignant and tender, Marcus Sedgwick blends fairy tale, spy thriller and love story in a novel that lingers long in the memory.

"Sedgwick has fleshed out these facts into a sophisticated novel, making convincing use of Ransome's voice. The first third of the book tells Russian history as if it were a fairy tale, brilliantly incorporating Ransome's early collection, Old Peter's Russian Tales; the second third concentrates on political history and Ransome's feelings as an innocent abroad in the midst of a brutal reality that modifies his idealism; and the last part is the story of the risks he took to bring Evgenia out of Russia. This compelling account, written with a rare sureness of touch, and tender about Ransome's relationship with his abandoned daughter, will reward readers of any age." Nicolette Jones, Times Online
Adéle , from The Henrietta Barnett School London

Blood Red Snow White is set in the Russian Revolution based on a real life story. Arthur Ransom leaves his wife and child to go to Russia, as a reporter for Britain. When there, he makes friends and falls in love with Trotsky’s secretary. He then decides to live with her and they lived happily ever after. He also writes a book of fairy tales.

 

The best thing was the structure, which was a serious fairy tale. It was a fairy tale as Arthur fell in love then had to go through complications until he and his girlfriend lived happily ever after. However, it was serious, which also made it more grown up, with the war and his other family and complications of love. It was different as everyone likes fairy tales but by the time they get to 10, fairy tales are for a completely different audience. This author has been able to create a fairy tale for older people.

 

The first part of the story was used to set the scene and introduce the characters. However, after the first 4 chapters, this become tedious and I would much rather be hearing more of the story. I appreciate that the author needs to set the scene. Once he has done that he doesn’t need to go on about it.

 

I thought this was a good book, as once you reached the fourth chapter it was a gripping book that I couldn’t put down. It had many points which I thought were amazing with vivid imagery. I also thought the bear, as a metaphor for starvation and hunger that Lenin used to overcome the country, was a good idea.

Ava, from The Henrietta Barnett School London

Blood Red, Snow White is the story of a now dead English journalist named Arthur Ransome. It is set about the line of a true story, one that took young Arthur Ransome and his fairy-tales to Russia. Thus set is this story, in the historical city of St. Petersburg, and then over the vast land, in the great red city of Moscow. This is a story telling light of Russian history, and heavy of Russian revolution.

 

This book is so very beautifully written, and every word is exquisitely placed. Although written with a historical narrative, this is truly more of a fairy-tale, and a character whom we later know to be Arthur Ransome himself introduces the book to the reader, asking that he should tell a story. ‘Now let me see, how do fairy-tales begin?’

 

The opening passage gripped me immediately, with a delightfully constructed paragraph of description. Entitled, ‘Once upon a time…,’ the chapter is quick to introduce us to the fairy-tale land that is Russia. Here in Russia, a huge bear prowls wearily. Not yet magnificent, not yet with a purpose, but wandering on, with feet that strike the ground, ‘heavy and heavy and heavy, paws and claws and teeth and fur. Thick, thick fur.’ I love these two sentences. They seem to begin to give the story a rhythm, a sense of pace. Out in Europe, a great war was being waged between three cousins. Nicholas, the Tsar, George, the King, and William, the Kaiser, who were continuously striking swords and drawing blood. But this war was far away, and as the story unwinds, the bear begins to pick up pace.

 

The bear of the story is left for a while, and instead the reader’s eye comes to rest on the next thread of the story. A ‘young stranger, with [a] suitcase in one hand and [a] wooden box in the other.’ The as yet anonymous man, later revealed as Arthur Ransome, is following a course through Russia, that will eventually lead him to St. Petersburg. In the time it takes him to walk there, we are told about the life that Mr Ransome is leaving in England so that he can start afresh in Russia, the land of fairy-tale. What better place for a writer?

 

This tactic of filling the reader in on history whenever it becomes necessary appears frequently throughout the beginning of the book, including in some of the following chapters that tell the reader about the history of the Tsars. It may, in some cases, be looked upon as a kind of author’s cheat, to not tell the story from the beginning, but I found this style very comforting. It made the story easier to follow, emphasising the important parts, rather than losing them in a wave of historical facts.

 

Now, the story returns to the bear. He, the bear, is only a metaphor to describe the lost crowd of people who are the poor and starving civilians of white Russia. This was by far the most successful, accurate and enjoyable metaphor I had ever encountered.  It captured every detail of what Russia was like at the time, and immediately, the magic of this fairy-tale became real to me. Now, I devoured the book.

 

The bear wakes from a long sleep. The Tsar has gone away to war, and the bear starts to walk. ‘The bear had forgotten what it felt like to walk through the trees, padding heavily in and out of the silver birch and firs, the snow balling and clumping between his claws.’ Again, the adjectives are sublime, but this is not what grabs the attention of the reader this time. Instead, we concentrate on two suspicious men who have suddenly appeared on the scene. They were the Russian and the Jew. They were Vladimir and Lev. And while they discussed the revolution that they are about to head, they stroked ‘their small and excellent beards’ and they were soon known as Lenin and Trotsky.

 

From this moment onwards, I was sworn to love the individual characters of Lenin and Trotsky. The very phrase about their small and excellent beards is so endearing and delicate, it was made as is if I knew Lenin and Trotsky myself.

 

At this point in time in the story, however, Lenin and Trotsky are still Vladimir and Lev. They are still Vladimir and Lev when they meet the bear. ‘‘Good Morning, Bear,’ Lev said to the animal, who, now that they were up close to it, seemed even bigger. ‘Good morning, Bear,’ said Vladimir.’ Then, ‘‘What’s wrong, Bear?’ [Lev] asked. The bear answered him. ‘I’m hungry,’ he declared, in a booming voice.’ Lev goes on to explain to the bear the source of his hunger, because he does not know it, and Vladimir turns the bear angry against the Tsar. With that, they send the bear howling away to St. Petersburg to destroy the Russian royal family. The revolution had begun.

 

The story is very long and is full of historical detail. Arthur Ransome was indeed a character who played his part in the Russian Revolution, frequently spending time in the company of Trotsky and the Kremlin, where he would interview him for a British newspaper. By the end of his career as a journalist, Arthur Ransome’s intentions were deeply under question. Was he a Russian spy? Was he a British spy?

 

This book is not only of great historical virtue, for it also holds a great story of the passionate love that can drive any individual through even the hardest political turmoil. Arthur Ransome of the book had love for two people, his daughter Tabitha, whom he goes through so much struggle to visit back in England every now and then, but also his new lover, later wife: Trotsky’s secretary, Evgenia, for whom he first plays British spy and then forges a peace treaty between Russia and Estonia so that they can escape from Russia and start a new and peaceful life together.

 

It was a fairy-tale with a happy ending. Arthur Ransome turned out to be an extremely brave and courageous man, and he and Evgenia truly deserved the rest of their lives together. This book really encouraged me on my way to understanding that even the smallest man has the biggest and most important story to tell.

 

I loved reading Blood Red, Snow White. I especially enjoyed the beginning of the book, where the author flits between telling a fairy-tale and telling a fictional biopic of Arthur Ransome. I thought the balance was extremely well set. Even as a fiction, this book taught me so much about Russian history. I believe that in that way, it slightly resembles another book I read some years ago called, The Boy in Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne. Although that book was a fiction, it really captured the truth about the harsh reality of life in Nazi Germany, from the point of view of somebody whose political agenda was not entirely formulated. I prefer Blood Red, Snow White simply because of the style of writing, which was lovely and exciting from beginning to end. To Blood Red, Snow White, I award ten out of ten.

 

 

 

Chanell, from Hampstead School London

This book starts with lots of different folklores from Russia. They are incorporated into the story of Arthur Ransome, a British journalist who travels to Russia with his trusty typewriter to record the downfall of the Tsar and the uprising of the Bolsheviks.

This is not the sort of book I would normally read, but I found it a riveting read and I wanted to know what the man carried around in the wooden box.

Chloe, from The Henrietta Barnett School London

Part history, part biography and part fairy tale: this book tells the story of Arthur Ransome's experience of Russia at the time of the Revolution. An English writer, he comes to Russia to report on the war for an English newspaper, whilst also indulging his passion for Russian fairy tales. He falls in love and then becomes caught between the two sides of the Revolution, red and white.

 

This book is a fascinating read because it brings history alive in the form of an outstanding story. Although partly fictionalised, the fact that the main character is real makes it believable and more thought-provoking. There are some superb descriptions and brilliant metaphors and similes, which make the story more real, such as 'The young green leaves dance and rub as the wind blows through them.'

 

Blood Red Snow White is a truly enjoyable read, which comes highly recommended.

Christopher, from University College School London

Blood Red, Snow White is a book about the Russian Revolution with the story of the journalist Arthur Ransome tied in. It’s about the part he played and the people he met, his love of Evgenia, and the Russian leaders Lenin and Trotsky. It is a fairy tale, spy thriller and love story all in one and should appeal to most people.

 

Arthur was a children’s storywriter and a journalist during the Russian Revolution of 1917. The first part of the book gives a long introduction to the story:  the time leading up to the Russian Revolution told in a fairy tale story format, as if Arthur Ransome had written it. The royal family of Russia and their problems and the first protests against them are told in a very symbolic way which I found very clever and easy to understand.

 

The second and third part of the book is about Arthur Ransome in Moscow and Petrograd (St Petersburg) and it gives us an exciting view of the revolution from the eyes of an English journalist in Russia. What makes it even more interesting is that he was in close contact with Lenin and Trotsky, the rulers of Russia after the revolution. He even fell in love with Trotsky’s secretary, Evgenia, which gives a whole new depth to the story. The second part titled One Night in Moscow contains many flashbacks leading up to a crucial decision that may change his life. A Fairy Tale Ending, the final part is about Arthur and Evgenia and their escape from Russia to freedom and a better life.

 

The book is well written in a way that in the One Night in Moscow part you want to continue reading because all these flashbacks are leading to a good climax. Even the names of the chapters: 4:30pm, 6:30pm etc, keep the urgency of this part. It makes you want to find out what would happen relatively quickly in a normal book but is actually quite drawn out and before you know it, you are seriously stuck to the book, trying to find out what would happen at 9:40.

 

As I said earlier, the symbolism in the first part of the book is very clever. For example, the Russian Revolution is described as a sleeping bear in the woods of Russia, waking up and running towards the city. Then it transforms into a protest of one hundred thousand people. I really liked this because not many other books use symbolism like that and as well as this book.

 

I can’t find any complaints about this book. It is symbolic, useful for history, well written, gripping and compulsive with a good amount of action - my kind of book. Not to forget, it is based on a true story.

 

Furthermore, it is written differently from normal books, as it is written quite like a dream or fairy-tale. However, it is easy to get into it [and] once you reach the middle of the story you won’t want to stop until it is finished. That is why I think this book is very good and deserves a high place in this competition.

Daniel, from University College School London

Blood Red, Snow White is a historical thriller which revolves around the life of the WW1 and Russian Revolution journalist Arthur Ransome. Through time as he arrives in Russia, he experiences the vast changes which come with the revolution and falls in love.

 

The story is written in three parts; the first part, written in fairy tale form, gives a background of the Tsarist regime and shows the preliminary stages of the revolution. It then introduces Lenin and Trotsky as ‘The Jew and the Russian.’ Also, it represents the people of Russia as a ‘hungry bear’ which is being spurned in hatred of the Tsar by Lenin and Trotsky. It tells the tale of ‘bloody Sunday’ and finally it tells us of our hero, Arthur, how he tries to get married, but to no avail. Then, he meets Ivy and they marry and have a daughter, Tabitha. Finally, how Arthur must leave her very early in her childhood without returning for a long time.

 

Part two is written in third person form; it revolves around Arthur’s encounters with the British spy Lockhart who he befriends. It also speaks of his various meetings with Trotsky where he meets the beautiful Evgenia. This is also where we begin to see Arthur’s struggle to find out which side he is on.

 

In part three, following his brother’s death and a brief visit to his daughter in England, Arthur returns to Russia. Here it seems he can no longer bear the  paranoia of constant spying and government eavesdropping and so he yearns to flee to somewhere neutral with Evgenia. This part of the book is written in the first person, so the reader gets a really personal insight into the mind of the hero.

 

The book is set in two main locations: St Petersburg and Moscow. St. Petersburg is the first Russian city Arthur arrives in. Here he admires pre-revolutionary Russian culture and architecture and settles down. Shortly afterwards he moves to Moscow. Arthur moves to Moscow so that he can meet the Bolsheviks and while meeting them Arthur meets Evgenia. Arthur finds Moscow quite intimidating and grand to an eerie extent.

 

The only other main character in the book is Evgenia. Arthur meets her one night when he goes to visit Trotsky, and over boiled potatoes, they fall in love. In one of the discussions they have Evgenia tells Arthur that she has been told to report back what he said as she is Trotsky’s secretary. Nonetheless, Arthur and she agree that they must be together.

 

This is an excellent book. It has elements of a spy thriller, yet at times it is romantic, and the historical side has educated me on the Russian revolution. It has versatility in almost every aspect of the writing and the storyline is gripping. This was a fantastic, interesting and educational summer read

Edward, from Hampstead School London

Blood Red Snow White tells the story of Arthur Ransome and his involvement in the Russian Revolution, Civil War and the Great War. On the book cover can be seen the silhouette of a Russian Orthodox Church which gives an immediate hint towards the involvement of Russia in this story. It is a wonderfully collaborative mixture of fairy tales, love story and spy story. It is a partly fictional book but it is based on many other non-fictional events involving the characters of Trotsky and Lockhart.

 

For me it wasn’t only a joy to read, being well structured and written, but also educational, giving me some sense of understanding of the complicated matter of the Russian revolution and civil war. Also, with the constant presence of fairy tales throughout the story one isn’t overwhelmed by facts, figures and dates.

 

To sum up, I believe Marcus Sedgwick used the resource of recently released secret documents to his advantage and produced an accurate yet compelling story of the life of Arthur Ransome.

Eniola, from The Henrietta Barnett School London

 

The book is based on the character Arthur Ransome and about his life before, during, and after the Revolution and war in Russia.

 

Arthur Ransome was a writer living in England when he realized that he no longer loved his wife Ivy and left her and his daughter Tabitha, whom he adored, when she was only a toddler to go and live in what was described as a magical land – Russia - to collect folktales.

 

Arthur arrives in a tsarist Russia where the Tars ruled with absolute power, but that was beginning to change. The people of Russia were trying to gain more then they were entitled to in the eyes of the Tsar, so the Tsar repealed the reforms and sent soldiers to stop any trouble or opposition as soon as it started. The people's hunger grew worse, and as winter began to come along people grew cold too, and many people were dying. The Tsar thought that he had restored order but he was wrong and a priest gathered a crowd and they rebelled.

 

The book is written in three different parts, the first part is titled "A Russian Fairy Tale" which is a fairy-tale account of the circumstances leading to the Russian Revolution. The collection of fairy tales are called Old Peter's Russian Tales, which was published in real life around the time of the revolution and written by Arthur Ransome in reality and also in this book. Some of these tales include: "the romantic but oblivious" Tsar and Tsarina and their son and heir Alexei, who had a rare blood condition which consequently involved Rasputin the mad monk who was sought to help Alexei but was then murdered; and then there was the story of Old Peter himself who is the grandfather and a woodcutter with his two orphaned grandchildren Vanya and Maroosia, the sleeping bear and the two conspirators in the wood.

 

In one of the fairy tales it suggests that the people that gathered at the Tsar's palace to rebel were not defeated, but banded together in the form of the bear that then slept for 12 years, to awake and wreak havoc under the manipulative grip of Vladimir and Lev, the Russian and the Jew - and soon to become Lenin and Trotsky, who play vital roles in the revolution.

 

The strange thing about this part of book is the fairy tales that interlink in between the different parts of the story, and try to give a [fictional] insight into the true events that happened. ...The second part of the book is called "one night in Moscow" and tells the story from the perspective of an outsider - Arthur Ransome. 

 

This part concentrates on Arthur's life in Russia after he's written the fairy tales and sees him (being an Englishman) get caught up in the games and plots of the Russians; and we see him having to decide which side he belongs to and where he calls home - the white Tsarists or the red Bolsheviks, Russia, Stockholm, or England - as he becomes involved in espionage and is suspected of being a spy or double agent.

 

Vladimir and Lev, after becoming the leaders of the red Bolsheviks (the opposition party to the white Tsarists), change their names to Lenin and Trotsky, and become an ever increasing party with more and more members. Evgenia is one of those members as she is secretary to Trotsky and Arthur gets to know Evgenia and falls in love with her despite Trotsky's attempts to play them against each other. Trotsky believes that as Arthur is now a British correspondent and working as a journalist for the Daily News in Russia he can convince Arthur to help the Bolsheviks in gaining Britain's help and tries to get Evgenia to use him so that he is able to do just that.

 

Arthur who becomes appalled by the brutal scenes of the war in Russia and the Revolution considers helping an English friend Robert Lockhart who belongs to the British Embassy. Soon after getting mixed up again in the proceedings of the war, and the situation in Russia growing worse and worse, Arthur decides to try and flee Russia to Stockholm - a neutral place - with the hope of Evgenia travelling with another party and meeting him there. After a few weeks they're finally reunited in Stockholm and are happily living there.

 

The third and final part is named "A fairy tale, ending" and concentrates around Arthur's personal life i.e. his family, friends, and Evgenia and this part of the book is written in the first person which helps to give more insight and depth into Arthur himself if he is the one giving the account.

 

With Arthur struggling himself to determine where his loyalties lie, ... [he] accepts an offer from SIS, and becomes agent S76. Although Lenin happily welcomes Arthur back to Russia, Trotsky still has his doubts and fears concerning him and whether he is a spy. ...

 

 

This book is an enchanting and fascinating tale, and never ceased to amaze me in terms of how well it is written, and left me with a desire to read more and more, it really does have that fairy tale ending!

 

 

 

          

 

Georgia , from The Henrietta Barnett School London

Blood Red Snow White is a fairy tale about a young Arthur Ransome in Russia, telling the story of his romance with a Russian woman, Evgenia. Though it is an extremely challenging book, it is beautifully written, and will be a complete delight to review.

 

The story itself is divided into three sections: A Russian Fairy Tale (a long introduction to Russia written in the style of Ransome's first book, 'Old Peter's Russian Tales'), One Night in Moscow (describing Ransome's life in Russia), and A Fairy Tale Ending (Ransome and Evgenia's journey away from Russia). My favourite of the three was Part One, A Russian Fairy Tale, because I found the style of writing and general content was absolutely enchanting, though less engaging. For example, the phrases "their skin bleached by preservative salts", "their faces contorted as if shrieking in horror at themselves" and "screaming for all eternity as they caught sight of their reflection in a looking glass" all appeared (describing the same thing) and likewise all added to the mass of literary thread used to spin a fairy tale. The stories selected were almost like the classics themselves. This section also used a large number of metaphors.

 

The second section was written in a similar, but still somewhat different manner, with the same writing techniques, only used less frequently, and, when used, considerably toned down. A considerable portion of the material was dialogue, which did lead to the story becoming increasingly hard to follow, and boring. This particularly happened towards the end. However, since it contained several similar written qualities, not to mention a far larger amount of action, it never managed to lose my attention altogether.

 

The third section, was, in my opinion, the most uninteresting. This section was almost entirely dialogue and action with the odd bit of weakish description thrown in to balance it out again. Another dislikeable trait lay in the fact that this is the only section written in the first person (Arthur). As happens so often, this limited the forms of writing that were possible, thus making the writing incredibly dull. On the other hand, it was the only section to have a large change in the writing technique, this being because after Arthur and Evgenia are out of Russia and into the safety zone, both moods are entirely changed and thus a lot more positive descriptions are thrown in.

 

This book was interesting because it contained several different stories, from several different points of view, throughout the book. Part One was a mixture of various true tales and fairy stories, all interweaving with each other and occasionally interfering with Ransome, who is introduced at the end of the segment. Part Two was entirely Arthur's story, but in the third person, allowing some room for other characters’ reactions. Part Three was written from the point of view of Arthur Ransome, and is therefore in the first person. This did provide the unique taste of providing the character's point of view from two perspectives, but I found such clear divisions had, in general, taken away from the overall effect [that] placing them in the same sector would have.

 

I found it was a pleasant surprise finding what I thought would be a lukewarm real-life love story to turn out to be such a test of my literary skill. Uncovering such a perfectly crafted novel is a rare event. It has since encouraged me to find out more about 'Old Peter's Russian Tales'.

 

To sum up my review, I feel that this book is destined to be a classic, but is probably better suited for readers older than me.

Gloriya, from Hampstead School London

A journalist named Arthur Ransome has been sent to Russia for some unfinished business. While being in Russia, Ransome falls in love with a beautiful Russian woman called Evgenia. Because Evgenia is Trotsky's secretary, she has been forced to tell Trotsky all about Arthur. Being divorced [from] his wife Ivy, Arthur misses his daughter Tabitha. Facing so many obstacles in Russia, Arthur and Evgenia tried going to England together but Evgenia got arrested and was sent back to Russia.

 

Blood Red Snow White is a spy and a romantic story.

Gloriya, from Hampstead School London

A journalist named Arthur Ransome has been sent to Russia for some unfinished business. While being in Russia, Ransome falls in love with a beautiful Russian woman called Evgenia. Because Evgenia is Trotsky's secretary, she has been forced to tell Trotsky all about Arthur. Being divorced [from] his wife Ivy, Arthur misses his daughter Tabitha. Facing so many obstacles in Russia, Arthur and Evgenia tried going to England together but Evgenia got arrested and was sent back to Russia.

 

Blood Red Snow White is a spy and a romantic story.

Joshua, from University College School London

When I read this book I was, for the majority of the time, in a tent surrounded by hippos or in an armchair surrounded by warthogs. But not even the shear squealing, yelping and grunting of the animals, could put me off the unique, misty way of the description and dialogue that Sedgwick uses to create this extraordinarily unique book. He uses similes and metaphors to spectacular effect.

 

The book begins describing Old Peter and his grandchildren, with a bear near by, cutting wood in the forests of Russia, near Petrograd (now St. Petersburg). Old Peter comes from Arthur Ransome’s book Old Peter’s Russian Tales and tells a tale of a Russian Tsar and the luxury that he lived in. He then moves on, linking in the story of a priest called Georgy. Georgy saw the disorder, hunger and poverty and decided to make a force of 100,000 people to start a major disturbance. In the end, the Tsar positioned men outside the palace gates, who shot down a lot of the “rebels”.

 

In England, Arthur Ransome is born. He grows up and proposes to a woman called Ivy and they have one child called Tabitha. However, he and Ivy began to have arguments. Eventually he became a journalist and one night left for Russia, without his daughter. He arrives in Russia and begins reporting on Russia’s part in the First World War. He makes friends with influential people. Then the Rebellion happened. A clash between workers and soldiers occur, with the rebels taking the name of the Bolsheviks; their leaders were Lenin and Trotsky. With all the commotion, a stand-in government took power, issuing an arrest of Tsar Nicholas II. Soon afterwards, Arthur goes to interview Trotsky. In doing so, he meets Evegina. They begin an affair and fall in love

 

I thought that the book’s description was unlike anything I had ever read before. Marcus describes, with uncanny reality the frosty snows of Russia and the malevolently sinister Kremlin. In short, he creates beauty in black and white letters. However, Sedgwick expertly allowed enough room for action, espionage and sightseeing. He added romance to the mix, giving the reader a bouncy feeling and creating a sweet touch. These two factors, along with the changing of a journalist to a father to an author to a spy to a husband to an old man, leaves many feelings of grief, happiness, excitement, fear and love for family. I like the way Sedgwick manages to tell three different stories and link them together and I think that the ability to do this makes the rare author even more distinctive. Amazingly, he also manages to keep the book quite short, only 304 pages, making it easy to read and take with you on the go! Also it makes it an edge-of-the-seat thriller, with no dull parts. The book revealed a ‘new world’ to me. I am not familiar with this part of history and it was interesting to read. I enjoyed reading it and have recommended it to many of my friends! My verdict is this: mythical, magical, historical and electrifying! An edge-of-the-seat thriller! A definite 10/10!

Julia, from Hampstead School London

This book explains the events of the Russian Revolution. Marcus Sedgwick compellingly chooses to draw a fictionalised account of the life of Arthur Ransome. This opens a fairytale sequence which forms a vivid backdrop against which this novel is set.

 

This book is about a journalist named Arthur Ransome. He goes from Russia to England and England to Russia telling fairytale stories. As he is a journalist he writes some of them in the local Russian newspaper which he writes for. As the Russian Revolution is happening, it is hard for Arthur to portray his emotions and thoughts into his newspaper. Arthur Ransome has many fans as a lot of people read his paper.  Arthur Ransome is the main character in this “brilliantly original novel” (Irish Times). His relationship with his wife and abandoned daughter makes him travel back to England to see his daughter [whom he loves], but as he writes the newspaper to his fans he could not betray them.

 

I would recommend this book to those who like a big, hearty novel. I liked this book because I like novels; however some may not enjoy it. This book is very different to many of the other books. This book has been shortlisted for the Costa Children’s Book Award 2007.

 
Meera, from The Henrietta Barnett School London

This book was set just before and during the Russian revolution. The story moved between countries quite a bit but the bulk was set in Russia.

 

The main character was a man named Arthur Ransome. He is a British journalist who leaves his wife and child and moves to Russia. He goes there as he wants to write fairytales for young children but finds himself doing much more then that.

 

I thought that this book was written brilliantly. I really liked the style of writing, even though it was a bit confusing how it sometimes switched from past to present tense.

 

The story started off really well as it set the scene and explained all about the Tsarists who ruled Russia. It kept me reading, as I was curious about where the story was going and what the plot would be about.

 

I think the way that Arthur is introduced is really good as in just a few lines it subtly tells you a lot about him.

 

The book explained lots to me about the Russian revolution, as I knew nothing about it beforehand. It really got me interested in the topic and I would definitely like to learn more.

 

I thought the whole book was described and written extremely well and I could almost feel the cold snow of Russia around me.

 

There were lots of characters in the book which did get very confusing at times, but it was good that every character in the book was introduced for a reason and once you found out someone’s name it was almost certain that they would appear again with some other purpose.

 

I think that Blood Red Snow White was an excellent book and I would definitely recommend it to anyone over the age of 11/12, as it is quite complicated.

Oscar, from University College School London

This book is best summed up in one word - beautiful. It is a beautiful idea, a beautiful design and is beautifully written. However many times people say ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover,’ when you see a book like this, there is no chance of anything else. Books, as things go, are naturally lovely but with this you can’t help but marvel at the sheer originality (how many books use red ink?). And the story definitely lives up to its expectations.

 

It tells the tale of Arthur Ransome as a young man in Russia. A journalist and children’s author, he soon doesn’t know which way to turn in this new, post-revolution Russia. Soon he must decide where his allegiances lie. Part fairy-tale, part biography and part adventure spy-story, this takes you on the journey of a level-headed Englishman at the most turbulent times of a turbulent country. A truthful and unbiased report of everyday life through the eyes of someone caught up in it all.

 

The book is split into three parts making a clear distinction between the fairy tale world of snow and magic that Ransome first came across and the harsh reality of life under Bolshevik rule. Many time-lines go on at the same time which, although it does make the book even more interesting and allows a steady release of the story, does get quite confusing in parts as to what’s what. The Russian Revolution is a period of history that is seldom used in children’s books and, if this book is anything to go on, that trend should not last.

 

This is by no means the first time a book has used a well-known figure to illustrate their point but it is one of the most successful. It’s a different Arthur Ransome than we are used to, not just the Swallows and Amazons writer that we think of him today, but a varied person from journalist to fairy-tale writer to spy! This book is incredible - the things it says, told in such a wonderful way really make it a gripping and intriguing read.

Rebecca, from Hampstead School London

When I first picked up this book, I though that it was going to be pretty boring. I must admit that the beginning was quite slow, and I though I might as well stop reading... But, and there is always that 'but', the pace started to pick up gradually and I thought 'hang on a minute, I'm actually enjoying this!' which explains this review and the 'short-listed for the Costa children's book award 2007' on the front cover.

 

The tale of this book kicks off by this fairy-tale story by the English journalist/reporter Arthus Ransome, and his life connected to the Russian Revolution. He falls in love with a Russian woman, not letting anything stop them from being together, even the actual revolution itself, while being suspected and respected. It also follows his journey in a narrated way by him, and a third person as well.

 

The mix of personalities and stories all connecting in such a defined way left me shell-shocked by the end.

 

This is a great book, but unfortunately I do not think this book would be good for encouraging reluctant readers as the slow start is rather off-putting, and some of the Russian names are hard to make out and pronounce; also, it can be hard to catch up on what is happening throughout certain parts of the book. 

Sophie, from The Henrietta Barnett School London

Blood Red Snow White is an extremely powerful book set as a fairytale. It is a true story based around the Russian revolution and the main character Arthur Ransome was real. It is a story within a story, and about how Arthur sent his newspaper articles back to England. The Tsar was in charge of Russia. His son and heir Alexei was ill. When he got a cut he couldn’t stop bleeding. There was only one man in the world who could cure the boy and that was Rasputin. The Tsar went off to war leaving the Tsarina and Rasputin. People didn’t like his behaviour. The only man who could save Alexei was dead. Poisoned by wine at a party.

 

The civil war was between the Tsar, white, and the Bolsheviks, red, hence the name Blood Red, Snow White. Lev and Vladimir thought they could take over Russia. This leads to a massive disagreement over the whole country. Some people are red and some are white. The journalist gets stuck right in the middle of this. He is meant to be a spy for the English but he has Bolshevik allies. He doesn’t want the British to think he is betraying them, but he still wants to keep his Russian connections. Arthur falls in love with Evgenia but she had to leave following her work.

 

The story is written like a fairytale. For a start everything came in threes. Different events happening and different things coming in groups of 3s. ‘Arthur thought for a moment, but he could see no point in refusing. Besides, he has read and written enough fairy tales to know that things come in threes. with this latest edition he would have 3 talismans to keep him safe: his letter from Buchanan, his permit from the Foreign Office, and Cecil’s bag. Enough to see him past 3 trolls, 3 dragons, or 3 witches, at the least.’ ‘It wasn’t long before we did, but I should have known there had to be the third and final test, or the fairytale wouldn’t have been complete.’

 

It is a happy ending as a fairytale should be and Evgenia gets reunited with Arthur and they escape out of Russia to run away from all the fighting.

 

Blood Red Snow White is well written with good use of language and it is a fairly easy read for our age.