Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Classics: The Master & Margarita

The Master and Margarita 
Rating: 4/5 
Buy or Borrow: Buy 
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher! 

In Soviet Moscow, God is dead, but the devil - to say nothing of his retinue of demons, from a loudmouthed, gun-toting tomcat, to the fanged fallen angel Koroviev - is very much alive. As death and destruction spread through the city like wildfire, condemning Moscow's cultural elite to prison cells and body bags, only a madman, the Master, and Margarita, his beautiful, courageous lover, can hope to end the chaos. Written in secret during the darkest days of Stalin's reign and circulated in samizdat form for decades, when The Master and the Margaritawas finally published it became an overnight literary phenomenon, signalling artistic freedom for Russians everywhere.

I am completely in love with the old Penguin covers, the ones that are Orange or Green etc. I don't know why I think I just like the simple colours and layout! They're super hard to get hold of these days so I was really excited by the release of the Pocket Penguins! Not to mention the upcoming release of Penguins Orange Classics! I was kindly sent a copy of Master and Margarita to review and it's not a classic I've read before and I was intrigued to start! 

First of all, this edition has a stunningly simple cover, and it's SO easy to read! I have an issue with some books....a spine issue. I never want to crack spines, really I don't. But sometimes a book is so tightly bound it has to happen...accidentally or otherwise. This book has a nice loose spine, so you can easily read it...easily put it down..without damaging it and I loved that! There's a nice large and memorable quote at the front of the book, intriguing and it caused much excitement when I spotted it in the book! There was also an extensive notes list at the back of the book, and they provided a lot of useful and interesting background information to the time period, and a lot of context. 

I found this book to be oddly fascinating. I was compelled to keep reading. It was witty, an interesting take on the early days of Stalinist Russia. People would disappear and it became commonplace. No eyebrows would be raised and you see that in this book. The ending...I don't want to spoil it but the ending had me a little choked up...smiling sadly as he realised his visitor had died. There's fantasy in this book, in fact....I'm kind of worried to say this, but...the scene with Margarita at the ball...it kind of reminded me of Alice in Wonderland...that strangeness. That magical quality to the scene. 

There is a lot of different elements to the book that make it a fascinating read, not just for the historical importance. The romance between the two rather lonely characters. The realism that managed to be humorous. The magical/fantastical elements. It's an intriguing read. Don't get me wrong...it's not a cakewalk. It is a bit of a slog in parts. In the beginning I was a bit iffy but I became more invested in it as I got used to the writing and found my intrigue outweighing my difficulty reading. 

You can feel the atmosphere of the time when the book was written in the pages. The fear. It's not hidden. It's there. Accusations. People disappearing in the night. Pointless arrests and so on. The people causing the fear don't need to be named. You know. It was an atmosphere that came off the page and infected you as you read. The book is amusing. It's witty at times, slapstick at others, and there's observations scattered throughout. Along with the humour the book can be quite saddening at other parts. There's a lot of emotion and humanity in this book if you can get in to it. 


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