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Red Year Paperback – June 4, 2017
This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
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Top customer reviews
So lyrical is Jan Shapin’s writing, that the Duets have become my soundtrack for this book.
Shapin opens her novel at a sporting event – one that is ‘like polo’ but not, and immediately our eye, and the eye of protagonist Rayna Prohme are fixed on one Mikhail Borodin, the Russian officer sent to take charge of China’s revolution. Even though she’s in China with her second husband, an ailing journalist with the rather forgettable (I suspect this was intended) name of Bill, Rayna is intrigued and attracted by Borodin, and the affair that follows, while predictable in fact, is a fascinating look at power and politics and the line where a relationship ends and a professional arrangement begins.
Always a fan of spy novels, I felt that Red Year really balanced the tension and fear of being discovered, and of having to choose one’s loyalties, exceptionally well. I also appreciated the obvious research that went into this story. The language never felt stilted as some period novels can, but neither did it sound too contemporary – it retained the flavor of the 20s, and the Chinese and Russian characters’ ‘voices’ felt true to their natures and countries of origin.
This is a thoughtful novel. It’s sexy, yes, and there’s no small amount of intrigue and jeopardy, but it’s also thoughtful. A quick read is possible, but I would encourage a slower, more measured experience to really appreciate all the nuance with which Shapin has infused her story.
Read for review via TLC Book Tours.
I enjoyed much of the book, I love learning more about history and real people that are not normally in my radar. Red Year seems well researched and although liberties are taken to fictionalize history, the author did base the book's details on true accounts of the time and people involved. My one dislike was that I had a hard time connecting with Rayna and I like to connect with the characters I read about. Author Jan Shapin is a playwright and screenwriter and it comes across in this novel--it reads a bit like a play or a movie and that's not a bad thing, I just wanted more set up versus feeling like I was dropped into the story trying to guess what led up to the scene I was in. I do admire Rayna's bravery, spirit, and tenaciousness, but I was challenged by understanding her motivations beyond getting and staying close to Borodin (who seemed to mostly regard her as a fascinating inconvenience). How much of her motivation was to fight for a cause versus a strong attraction that she felt was love and/or as she thinks at one point in the story, "...a way to dispel her morbid fear of an ordinary life." Is she a heroine, or a woman wanting an adventure who got caught up in the turmoil of history--or maybe a bit of both? At the end of the day, I'm not sure I know the answer--and maybe I'm not supposed to know. If you enjoy historical fiction and find world history and politics in the 1920s interesting--especially in Russia and China, Shapin does an excellent job in portraying them and making them vivid and full of life. She has two previous novels--also historical fiction but set in different periods and places that I will definitely be checking out.