I read this for a book club and would probably have picked it up anyway because I am always interested in the tsarist Russia of the early 1900's. At first I was confused with the time and setting switch from a small village in 1895 to a prison in 1905 (I think I have the dates close), but figured out what the author was doing about one third the way through. The heroine did not engage me very much but her stepmother was another matter. She was complex, strong but yet endearing, and from my perspective made the book interesting. The whole narrative really felt like a description of a picture rather than a depiction of life. Maybe a bit too back and forth for me, with the ending leaving me feeling that the author didn't know how to tie it up so just stopped. I would say try this because some of my group really liked it and didn't have the same disappointment about the ending.
The Imposter Bride has a very long waiting list, so I decided to try this earlier book by the same author. The story is that of a young woman during the Russian Revolution and how she gets caught up in the movement. A slow start, but it quickly picks up.
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