My rating: 5 of 5 stars
When thinking about trying to summarize The Red Scarf for a review, I found it very difficult. Kate Furnivall has written such a completely intertwined story that pretty much every moment from beginning to end is significant. As I write reviews, in most cases I like to be sensitive and not give away pertinent information to anyone who may be reading the review. I might give away names of characters or a side plot or something, but not something that will ruin the entire book for the reader. Below is the summary from Barnesandnoble.com, and to me, it really does not do the book justice…but it also does not give anything away you don’t already learn within the first few chapters of the book:
Davinsky Labor Camp, Siberia, 1933: Only two things in this wretched place keep Sofia from giving up hope: the prospect of freedom, and the stories told by her friend and fellow prisoner Anna, of a charmed childhood in Petrograd, and her fervent girlhood love for a passionate revolutionary named Vasily.
After a perilous escape, Sofia endures months of desolation and hardship. But, clinging to a promise she made to Anna, she subsists on the belief that someday she will track down Vasily. In a remote village, she’s nursed back to health by a Gypsy family, and there she finds more than refuge—she also finds Mikhail Pashin, who, her heart tells her, is Vasily in disguise. He’s everything she has ever wanted—but he belongs to Anna.
After coming this far, Sofia is tantalizingly close to freedom, family—even a future. All that stands in her way is the secret past that could endanger everything she has come to hold dear…
In my opinion, Kate Furnivall is a master storyteller. Under any normal circumstances, I wouldn’t pick up the books she writes based on the summaries given, because I can tell, by the summary, that there is a lot of real life anguish that is going to happen which is what I usually avoid when picking out a book. Life is usually real enough for me. Plus, her books tend to be rather political in nature…which is a bit of a turn off for me as well. I don’t even know what made me pick up The Russian Concubine, my introduction to Kate’s work. I’m pretty sure it was an impulse buy at Half Price Books, but I am glad I gave her a chance. As I said, the books are political and they are usually about struggle, but the characters are so real and unbelievable strong, they suck you into their lives and do not let go. There is always an air of hope that is mixing and spinning in all the distress and injustice.
The Red Scarf was, to me, ultimately about friendship and love. Sophia struggles with her decisions to do what is right for herself or, in a sense, laying down her life for her friend. It is about survival. Anna spends most of her time just focusing on surviving, and never giving up hope. Sophia, too, must survive and find a way to save her best friend. I don’t know many people or friendships that are as tight as this friendship, but I love it because we should love each other in such a way that we would walk to the ends of the earth for them. Could you imagine the world we would live in if we did?
I really enjoyed the way this book was set up. Usually I’m not big on bouncing forward and backward in time, but the flashbacks in this book were appropriately placed and absolutely necessary. The book would have been too long and too slow moving had it been told from the beginning to end in a straight line. This was my biggest surprise of all though, the fact that the book never seemed to really slow down. Even if there were moments of “down time” they were fast moving and still pertinent to the story. There was absolutely no extra fluff anywhere in the story that I could tell. The story and it’s message are just beautiful, even in all of its harsh realities.