Wednesday, April 4, 2018

THE PATRIOTS by Sana Krasikov

Why would a young American woman move to Russia of her own accord in the 1930s?  For a man, maybe.  Ideals, maybe.  Family heritage, maybe.  Ultimately, it is an adventure of sorts but not a wise move.  Florence refuses to give up, though, and ultimately meets another like-minded man, Leon.  Life in Russia under Stalin, particularly after the war, is no picnic and certainly not a socialism success story.  We know from the beginning that she will land in a labor camp and survive to be reunited with her young son, Julian, who has basically grown up in an institution for children whose parents are political prisoners.  Julian grows up in Russia, but he and Florence will eventually move to the U.S.  Julian returns years later for a business meeting and, more importantly, to try to persuade his son to come home.  The novel has two very intense sections.  The first is before Florence’s arrest when she is doing all she can to get out of Russia and save her family.  The second is during her incarceration when she is acting as a translator for an American POW and attempting to coerce him into sharing technical information about his downed warplane.   Most of us can’t know if we would betray friends or country in the hope of saving ourselves, but this question lies at the heart of this novel.  Julian raises a bigger question as it relates to Florence personally:
“What I could not abide was her unwillingness to condemn the very system that had destroyed our family.”
The answer to that question is still a mystery to me, but I can only surmise that possibly she felt that Russia had the right idea but went about implementing it in the wrong way.  Julian also suggests that her guilt made her feel that she was a party to her own suffering.  Certainly, this novel raises a number of intriguing questions, but the fact of the matter is that it is entirely too long.  The author is not Tolstoy, after all.

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