Saturday, March 4, 2017
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Publication Date: October 18, 2016
Greenleaf Book Group
eBook & Paperback; 300 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Beverly Hills Book Awards Finalist in Historical Fiction.
Jane Marlow’s debut novel is a beautifully written historical saga of two families—one born of noble heritage and the other bound as serfs to the noble’s household. Set during the mid-1800s in the vast grainfields of Russia, Who Is to Blame? follows the lives of two star-crossed serfs, Elizaveta and Feodor, torn apart by their own families and the Church while simultaneously trapped in the inhumane life of poverty to which they were born.
At the other end of the spectrum, Count Maximov and his family struggle to maintain harmony amidst a tapestry of deception and debauchery woven by the Count’s son. The plot twists further when the Tsar emancipates twenty million serfs from bondage as the rural gentry’s life of privilege and carelessness has taken its final bow, while much of Russia’s nobility faces possible financial ruin.
Aficionados of historical fiction will be captivated by the lyrical flow of Marlow’s intertwining stories of love, loss, courage, and pain against her backdrop of social upheaval. The novel’s riddles flow subtly throughout, spurring readers to ponder where the blame actually lies. In the end, we must tap into our own hearts to navigate the depths and quandaries of the author’s perplexing question.
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“When you try to describe Russia you can use well-known historical events. If you want to know about the lives of the Russian people, it becomes a little murkier until now. Jane Marlow has done a marvelous job in giving the reader a deep and beautiful insight into the day to day life of the Russian people from nobles to the peasants in the 19th century. As you immerse yourself in the book you can feel their struggles and experiences as though you were walking in their shoes. Brilliant!” -Mark Schauss, host of the Russian Rulers History Podcast
“I loved the way that the author was able to weave in a lot of detail to explain the time and place that the story falls in. It’s important detail and makes for a very rich collection of story lines. I was so interested in a lot of the detail that I found myself wanting more, not because there was a lack of detail but because the wealth of detail was so good that I did not want the book to end! This is a fantastic debut!” – Meg, A Bookish Affair
The girls froze. Their grain flails halted in mid-air as their heads cocked toward the approaching jeers and raucous clanging. Elizaveta and her seven girlfriends flung aside their flails and dashed to the slouching wood gate at the road’s edge. A mocking throng was clustered around a horse-drawn cart, behind which a tethered, barefoot woman plodded through gummy road mud. The aggrieved crowd had stripped her naked above the waist and sheared off her long hair, leaving short spikes like the head of a thistle. From the roadside, scolding neighbors pounded blackened pots with soup spoons and oven prongs. Others pelted the woman with garbage and blistering insults.
Petrovo’s village assembly had found Grusha Prokofieva guilty of illicit sexual penetration and sentenced her with public shaming. While the all-male assembly pointed condemning fingers at the unchaste woman, it sympathized with the wronged husband and ignored the male co-fornicator.
Long before Elizaveta understood the meaning of “unchaste,” her parents and the Church had pounded into her that such women threatened the moral sinews of the family and, by extension, the entire village. Of like mind with her neighbors, she usually regarded promiscuous women with self-righteous scorn. But not today. Over the past few months, Elizaveta had discovered the heady throes of her sweetheart’s warm body pressing against hers. She had come to understand temptation.
Watching the adulteress dodge apple cores and chicken bones, Elizaveta resolved to grant no favors beyond kissing prior to her wedding vows. She was new to the business of kissing, but her older sister Katya, with her one year of romantic experience, had warned her that all boys wanted more.
Elizaveta wasn’t certain of the details of “more” when they involved a man and a woman, but she’d been familiar with the various acts of propagation for livestock and fowl since before she reached the age of reckoning. And living in a one-room hut, she was privy to the nighttime noises of her parents as well as those of her aunt and uncle. However, she had never actually witnessed “more.”
Desires, she vowed, would be bridled until that blessed day she became a bride. But a familiar dread instantly lodged itself in her chest. So many obstacles stood between today and her wedding day. Well, really only one obstacle, she tried to reassure herself. But it was such a huge one. And when it eventually reared its head, she’d have to go toe to toe with her father, Heaven forgive and protect her.
Thanks to my mom and my hometown’s bookmobile, I learned as a youngster to appreciate the written word. Since then, I’ve devoted many years to trying to use it properly. Like many aspiring writers, I wrote weekends, before work, on vacation. I hoped to turn my hobby into a 2nd career, which eventually happened (but first, I had to work at it for eighteen year, plus I had to reach retirement age!).
My commitment to my readers: Every bit of me will work to provide a reading experience that is engrossing, emotive, thought-provoking, & historically driven— a tale that offers meaningful insights for today’s world.