This is based on the real life story of Arthur Ransome, British children’s book author who was a journalist during World War 1 in Russia and also a spy to both maybe Great Britain and the Bolsheviks. I’ll admit I had never heard of Arthur Ransome and I thought this was just another take on Snow White. This is what you get for buying books based on the title but it was interesting. Ransome, had an interest in Russia and before he became a journalist, wrote a book of Russian fairy tales. He wasn’t meant to be a spy but because of his position as a journalist that gave him access to people high in the Russian and Bolshevik’s government including Lenin and Trotsky he became an asset to the British government during the war. The thing he seems to never really know who he’s spying on. In true mediocre white man style, he stumbles into a exciting life thanks to being the right place at the right time and not necessarily based on skills or talent. While in Russia, he falls in love with Evegnia, the secretary to Trotsky. As things become more and more dangerous as Bolshevik revolution goes on, Ransome had many opportunities to go back to England but always goes back to Russia to be with Evegnia, which sounds romantic but we know nothing about her beyond she is Trotsky’s secretary and Ransome is in love with her. He gives up his life in England, his daughter, puts himself in danger for her and yet why? What is so great about her? What does he love about her? It’s almost like she’s afterthought in this story which is where things of this novel fall apart. I understand this is his story but motivations are important and supposedly he does a lot of what he did because she was in love with her but she’s barely a character in the novel. We get more of Trotsky and Lenin then we do her. It’s just disappointing but also not surprising that the stories and lives of women come second or not at all to the men in the lives. That they exist only to further the man’s story. Ransome would eventually marry Evegnia and they would be married until they both die and that’s great but I want to know her story. I want to know more about her. I’m tired of reading stories with full formed men and paper thin women. Male authors do better.
I’m pretty sure when I bought this book a couple years ago at a Con, I thought it was a Russian retelling of Snow White. This is not that. Instead it’s the story of real life British children’s Arthur Ransome and his time being a reporter in Russia during the Bolshevik revolution. Very interesting but lacking in dwarfs.