08 August 2012

The Red Scarf by Kate Furnivall, Book review

(Published as 'Under a Blood Red Sky' in the UK)
 Publisher: Berkley Trade
 ISBN-13: 978-0425221648


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 is nursed back to health by a Gypsy family, and there she finds more than refuge. She finds Mikhail Pashin, who, her heart tells her, is Vasily in disguise. He is 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...

My thoughts:

Some of you might remember a review of 'The White Pearl' (see here) written by the same author on this blog and I am happy to bring you another Kate Furnivall's best seller! 
Mystica introduced me to this interesting writer and I have already lined up another of her titles, 'The Russian Concubine'.
Kate Furnivall tantalizes her readers with exotic themes in which any romantic soul will immerse himself/herself. I should know as I am first and foremost a dreamer!

'The Red Scarf' is stark, vivid in its recollection of one of the harshest times in the history of Russia. Millions of souls lived and died under the often unforgivable regime betwixt the revolution and the fall of Berlin's wall. Yet their love for Mother Russia is never to be doubted.
Memories of long ago (or so it seems) includes hearing whispered stories of Russian refugees barely scraping a living in exile. Their story told sometime over dinner, often ending in tears and wails...Tangible broken hearts, hopes to return one day crushed repeatedly with time...

In this novel aficionado readers of Kate Furnivall will discover the world of Gulags, phantom towns with no names peopled by ghosts. You find yourself questioning the courage of these men and women, some demised aristocrats or intellectuals, some conscientious objectors, other mere innocents denounced often by friends, neighbours and sometime family for negative subservience. 
Sentenced, they found themselves subjected to incarceration, enduring inhuman treatment in Siberia, their lives worth less than beasts, all in the name of the new regime.
Yet despite unspeakable horrors, they lived and some even survived, their freedom earned at the highest price.

'The Red Scarf' is Sophia and Anna's story... Haunting with its stark beauty, its rawness and even crude reality. 
Kate Furnivall draws her readers in such tales of sheer audacity, it is hard to put her books down! Her protagonists live under unbelievable conditions yet yearns for a better tomorrow,  a chance to live and love once again and feel whole! 
These are real stories depicting anguish and fear, anger, love, hate and deep sorrow and yet there is laughter in this grey dull world! You cannot but feel the emotions so aptly described by this master storyteller!

As difficult as it might be for some skeptics, God is present in the Gulags just as He was in the concentration camps. Corrie Ten Boom reminded us of His presence in  her own recollection of SS guards very possibly afraid of fleas...They did not dare to enter the barracks for fear to be contaminated and for that Corrie's sister reminded her to be thankful!

This story however has a twist which I found unique personally. For centuries Gypsies have performed rituals which singularly have never been explained. To delve in these mysteries brings only confusion to outsiders, perhaps even danger.
But for Sophia, this becomes a window on survival in a cruel world, enough to afford time to buy freedom along a hand full of hidden pearls, her only foreseeable way to save Anna and even her lover. 

What would we do to save a loved one? How far would we be prepared to go to reach the unattainable?
Anyone who believes any dark force present in this novel would be right: it is one of human creation, an unforgivable cruel world where people have little more value than a potato. 

In the end, good prevails and I for one believe God is always there for those who believe!

A breathtaking story of a time where prayers and wits is the only means to survival!
For mature readers.
Worth 5 stars and then some!

About the Author:


'Kate Furnivall was raised in Penarth, a small seaside town in Wales. Her mother, whose own childhood was spent in Russia, China and India, discovered at an early age that the world around us is so volatile, that the only things of true value are those inside your head and your heart...'

Found out more about Kate on her website (here) . Be sure to check out the Bonus Materials!

Note to readers: I was not asked to review this title and all opinions reflected here are entirely my own!


  1. Couldn't resist clicking over before heading off to dreamland. The title of one of my previous blogs was Red Scarf Diaries, and I LOVE red scarves. :) Sounds like a good one.

    I think it's interesting that you mention gypsies while I have been doing a little browsing on the subject myself. Quite dark I might add, but I am treading carefully.

    Thanks for sharing as usual, Noelle.
    Much love,

    1. I always appreciate your comments Marcia!
      The US market title is questionable since it is not unique. Why temper where not needed?
      I am always puzzled about this!
      As to the subject of beliefs, I too thread carefully but have a healthy respect for other people's beliefs. I was taught God's hand is in everything and leave the unexplained in His hands!
      Excellent book though even if subject not easy. Very much a part of history!
      God bless,

  2. Bonjour Noelle!!!
    Quelle livre!! Apre lire le resumer j`ai l`invie de lire ce livre!! :O)
    Bonne journee!! :O)
    xxx Maria xxx

    1. Maria, this is a beautiful story despite its (often) sordid content. It is a part of Russia, one never to forget and which has inspired many to make the right changes for the people!
      You live in a beautiful country with an incredible history!
      A warm hello from the Pacific NW coast,

  3. This is a new one for me so thank you very much for the review.;


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