Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.
A House Divided by Michael R. Phillips and Judith Pella
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)
Prince Sergei returns from war in the Balkans to St. Petersburg, jaded, restless, and perplexed about life and his place in it. He can make no immediate plans about a possible future with Anna, the peasant woman he loves. And Anna’s disillusioned and grieved brother, Paul, is heading down the precarious path of an angry revolutionary in A House Divided by authors Michael Phillips and Judith Pella.
In my review of the first book in this series, I mentioned that the landscape is ripe for revolution. This second book agrees with me.
It wasn’t long before I became thoroughly absorbed in the novel. The politics, the intrigue, the corruption, the forging of relationships and alliances, the heightening rumble of unrest and the blasts of violence—so much happening for this longtime lover of historical fiction to take in.
Yet, as with the previous book, there were many places where this novel’s style got to me. The narrator sometimes spells out too much, leaving no room for nuance or trust in the reader’s perception. The overabundance of italics and exclamation points makes for narration that seems to be shouting when there’s no need, and it gives the dialogue an overdramatic feel, making the characters harder to take seriously.
Katrina and Anna (among other characters, though not all of them) usually feel more like stereotypical caricatures than real people. On account of the awkward and sometimes rushed romantic development, I couldn’t find any of the romance satisfying. At this point in the series, I’m more interested in the events than I’m really into most of the characters those events involve.
Maybe someone present or yet to appear in the series will eventually grow on me though, as I do plan to read at least one more of these novels. The up-close unfolding of the historical side of it all has me hooked.
Here’s my review of the next book in The Russians series, Travail and Triumph.