THE WITNESS by M.W. Waring


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The author of this long, dense novel about Russia from 1902 to 1917 is essentially anonymous. One only knows that he (she) lived in Petrograd as a child and for twenty years has studied documents and interviewed people who witnessed that period. The book is set out as a social and political panorama, while two individuals' stories, those of Max and Susie, delineate the life styles and attitudes of the great antagonists. Max, an aristocrat, becomes associated with the revolutionaries in Switzerland, and falls hopelessly in love with one of them, Inessa. While sympathetic to the Marxist cause, he never really joins the party but we view its personalities through him. Susie is an American from a ""main line"" family who marries a Russian Count in the emperor's guard and so enters the gay social circles of Petrograd. Most of the characters are created from real people, and most of the major events are fictionalized historical record. Those sections that describe the internal struggles of the revolutionaries are exceptional; the characters are believable, often subtle. The only flaw in the book is the occasional florid, lyrical language that as often as it enhances one scene muddies another. Nevertheless the book is engrossing, and it does what it is intended to do--it brings a turbulent period of history to life through the individuals that were involved.

Pub Date: Oct. 9th, 1967
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin