...despite the book’s size and the headiness of the material it tackles, Marina’s unlikely bildungsroman — her growth, her loves, her dreadful losses and disappointments, but, above all, her enduring hope and determination to survive, against all odds — proves so gripping that it’s hard to put the book down ... n its most harrowing passages, The Revolution of Marina M. shows us the full extent of female vulnerability in chaotic times ... There is enough pain to go around in Fitch’s sprawling, majestic book, as people shed old identities like snakeskins ... At the end, Marina is left to confront the Russian Civil War almost completely alone, and the modern reader — like the readers of Tolstoy’s and Dostoyevsky’s serialized novels — is left itching for the next installment.
The Revolution of Marina M. is an often exasperating, strange story of a spoiled, entitled aristocratic girl coming of age during the Russian Revolution. And yet, despite its narcissistic heroine and its meandering story, Janet Fitch’s novel shimmers with vital energy. The Revolution of Marina M. is a little bit silly, but it is also quite fun ... Marina is an infuriating character in a lot of ways: She is entitled and self-absorbed, a terrible friend and the maker of many bad decisions. And yet, after spending so much time with her, a reader would be hard-pressed not to like her. And that is what makes what happens to her over the course of the novel so disturbing. On the other hand, were these outlandish events meant to convey the terror of revolution? Or were they the product of a restive writer searching for a way to end her story? The sexual enslavement of Marina, in particular, stood out as problematic and marked a change in the flow of the story. What was the purpose of this detour? ... Many books, especially those requiring 800 pages of time from their readers, would be undone by the absence of a clear purpose. And yet, astonishingly, The Revolution of Marina M. is hard to put down. Like Marina, it is maddening and flawed. It makes a good many bad decisions. And yet it is charming and lively and, ultimately, worth the time.
Over the course of more than 800 pages, Fitch conveys the importance of sex for a young woman’s development with Rabelaisian earthiness ... Marina, the reader concludes, is not a true revolutionary; she is tossed like flotsam by great events, and the novel would benefit were she more of a participant ... In publicity materials, Fitch reveals her own lofty aspirations in her declared worship of Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment: 'I opened it, and there was my world.' Yet somewhere in the middle of its 800 pages, this novel loses any semblance of her 19th-century forebear’s sense of narrative control. That said, the feral descriptions of sex provide some of the novel’s most amusing, if decidedly un-Dostoyevskian, moments.