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Who Is to Blame? A Russian Riddle

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  92 ratings  ·  57 reviews
Beverly Hills Book Awards Finalist in Historical Fiction

Who is to Blame? is a historical saga of two families—one born of noble heritage and the other bound as serfs to the noble’s household. Set during the mid-1800s in the vast grainfields of Russia, Who Is to Blame? follows the lives of two star-crossed serfs, Elizaveta and Feodor, torn apart by their own families and th
Paperback, 301 pages
Published October 18th 2016 by River Grove Books
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3.84  · 
Rating details
 ·  92 ratings  ·  57 reviews

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Apr 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: librarything-win
I really enjoyed reading this historical fiction book. Russian life in the 1800's was extremely interesting. I found the riddles preceding each chapter fun, thought-provoking and downright indecent at times! During this time in history, superstitions and old wives tale's ran rampant and was evidenced throughout the story. It was definitely weird what people believed in back then. It's obvious that Jane Marlow put a lot of time, research and thought into this story. This book was 300 pages, spann ...more
Set in Russia during the time period of 1840 through 1865, this novel brings to life the everyday, intertwined lives of one family of the Russian nobility and several families of their serfs.

Stephan Maximov is a loving husband and father who must oversee the workings of his estate during a period of great social upheaval. In addition, Maximov also tries to deal with his wife’s depression as well as with one son who leads an indolent existence.

The lives of the serfs are extremely difficult, leavi
Ankit Saxena
Definitely a 4.5 worth of Literature.

True to the fact, I love this Book.

It’s completely a page-turner story and written very versed with perfect timeline with best chosen characters.

There is a saying, "Be Russian, when in Russia"; meanwhile I picked this book in winters and feel enriched and nourished to my mind for doing the same. I was waiting for picking this book for so long to just start it in Winters so that can able to feel the climate/environment that in my thoughts would have been in
Oct 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Definitely a page-turner. Generous use of dialogue and rapid scene changes immerse the reader into 19th century Tsarist Russian rural life, which the author has carefully researched down to the last stitch of bridal embroidery. We realize that both serfs and nobility are shackled with suffocating lives of drudgery albeit in drastically contrasting circumstances. While being culturally and legally trapped in their respective lots in life, the leading characters endure personal crises and hardship ...more
Lesia Joukova
Jan 21, 2017 rated it liked it
Actual rating: 3,5 stars (RECOMMENDED)
Thank you, NetGalley and Greenleaf Book Group for giving me a chance to read and review this copy.

The historical genre is a very interesting genre to read and I was very interested in Who Is to Blame because of its premise. It is set in the 19th century rural Russia, the story spanning decades before and after Russia's Tsar Alexander The Second's 1861 reform that granted freedom to Russia's serfs.
I am a Russian myself and that is why it's always extremely in
Meg - A Bookish Affair
4.5 stars. "Who is to Blame?" is the story of serfs who work the land and nobles who direct the work in Russia in the mid to late 1800s. I am absolutely fascinated by Russian history and always find myself wishing that I could find more historical fiction set in Russia. The history is so rich with good fodder for stories as we can see in this book.

This book has a huge cast and is split in chapters by the serfs and the nobles. We get to see how each side sees life differently and how they affect
Jan 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I was really impressed with this one. There is no sugar coating of what life was like for the serfs in 19th century Russia, so it was fascinating and horribly sad all at the same time. I liked how the novel switched between the serfs and the nobles, and I thought the writing was very well done. I would definitely recommend this one!

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for giving me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!
Nov 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
As a professional Russianist, I approached this book with both curiosity and trepidation. I'm always excited to see a Western book with a Russian theme, but at the same time, I'm so often disappointed in the execution. "Who Is to Blame?" definitely reads more like a Western take on a Russian theme than like actual Russian literature, but it will probably appeal much more to English-language readers because of that.

The novel is a fact-dense piece of historical fiction about a particularly turbule
Nov 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
I would like to thank NetGalley, the Publisher and Author for this copy.

It is more like 4.5 stars.

I find it a little hard to start my review of this book, not because i did not like but because, on the contrary, i liked it a lot and it affected me. So here we are, by mid 19th century, in rural Russia, following the lives of two families depending on each other, yet no real connection existed between them. On one side, we have the Maximov family, an old nobility, owning the estate of Petrovo alon
Graham McGhie
Feb 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Provides an inspired Glimpse into Russia during the Great Reforms- a great read
Having read a few other reviews of this book I noted with interest that many reviewers had studied Russian History and Literature at University. I'm the same. The period of Russian History from mid-nineteenth century to the Revolutions of 1917 has always held great interest to me. As has the Literature of the period.
There is little I can add to that which has already been said by others about Jane Marlow's novel exce
Linda Zagon
Oct 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
I would like to thank NetGalley and the Publisher for an ARC of "Who is to Blame?" by Jane Marlow. This is a historical fiction genre set during 19th century Russia, and spanning over 25 years. The drama takes place between the Noble Class,(by heritage), and the serfs who tend the land and are born into poverty. Within each class, Jane Marlow writes about romance, conflicts, betrayal,family,loyalty, love, revenge., and power.Within the setting, the Tsar emancipates the serfs, and ongoing conflic ...more
Jun 27, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Thank you to NetGalley and River Grove Books for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

It took me quite some time to review this book because I needed to process how I felt about it. Some of the narration and characters were a bit too flat and non-dimensional for me but I absolutely loved all the riddles distributed throughout and some of the thoughtful ideas about class and various perspectives between nobility and serfs. A decent read.

I found this fascinatingly timeless: "Ignor
Nov 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Set in Russia during the mid-to-late 1800's, this book chronicles the life of a noble family and one of its serf families, including the time period when serfs became free citizens. How did the lives of nobles and serfs differ? And, how would they each be affected by this huge change in power?

I'm not sure why, but ever since reading (and loving!) The Bronze Horseman series by Paullina Simons, I have been very fascinated by life in Russia. Yet, I have not read anything from this time period. Thi
Saarah Niña
Dec 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a tale!

I've studied Russia, particularly 'revolutionary Russia' so my knowledge revolved more around the topic of how Russia politically changed- from the system of Tsardom to a Provisional government, then its gradual advance to a Communist regime. Even so, while the historical fiction aspects of this book fixate more so on serfdom, and the nobility in Tsarist Russia, I did enjoy reading it. In spite of it having been a work of fiction, there's a lot that can be learned. I felt like I was
The book is set in the 1800s before the emancipation of the serfs and follows Count Stepan Maximov and Elizaveta who is a peasant.

Elizaveta loves her childhood friend but they can’t marry because marrying your godparents’ child can’t happen. Instead, she has to marry a man she knows is a violent one and the marriage isn’t a happy one. But it seems like abusiveness kinda runs in Ermak’s family and Elizaveta’s sister-in-laws aren’t having any more luck in their lives.

Maximov’s lost their child and
Mar 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommended to El by: HNR
(Received from the Historical Novel Society and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

There's no secret here that I adore Russian literature, especially mid-19th-century Russian literature. This is a debut novel for Jane Marlow, decidedly not a mid-19th-century Russian author (she is, after all, alive and well), but it feels like a Russian novel in all ways except for the length of the book itself. It is, relatively-speaking, a short novel, coming in at just a few pages over 300. As fa
Nov 16, 2016 rated it it was ok
I received this free copy in exchange for an honest review

I read the blurb and some reviews before choosing this book, and I thought to myself "why not?". Well, I should have listened to my instinct because it is definitely not my style. I found it boring and overrated. I pushed myself in order to finish it, and I neither regret it or feel that it was a good thing that I did. That on a personal level.

I must admit though that it is very well documented, and the historical era, as well as the cou
Jul 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: giveaway-wins
I received this book as a Goodreads Giveaway.

I have no idea why it took me so long to actually pick up this book and read it, I loved this story and really hope to see a sequel! The author has the gift of story telling. Absolutely beautifully written, emotional and both heartbreaking and uplifting with characters that can both disgust you and pull at your heart strings at the same time.
Lisa Reinke
Mar 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating look at how Russian serfs and Russian aristocracy lived in 19th century

There is very little fiction on this subject. This book fills a gap. You can tell the author did a lot of research about Russia. I loved the riddles and the storylines are very compelling!
The author gets a real feel for the times. This era of history, 1860s rural Russia, is a complete mystery to me so exploring its diametrically opposed lifestyles was a shock to me. The reader senses how bleak it was as a peasant in serfdom-era Russia and how plush it was as an aristocrat. Serving as small kingdom tyrants in essence, landowners could even dictate things as personal as marriages for their people.

Yet, given the era this book takes place in, we get a sense of the balance of power sh
Dec 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
In “Who is to Blame,” Jane Marlow re-examines a genre made popular more than a century earlier by Alexander Herzen. In this incarnation of the story, the author uses an individual serf and the other peasants whose lives intersect with hers to represent the poverty of nineteenth-century Russia. The opposite side, represented by Count Maximov’s family, clearly portrays not only the disparity of wealth, but also the inability of the gentry to function within their society after the loss of their la ...more
Oct 16, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: giveaways
Giveaway - Thank you for the opportunity to read this book!

I will keep my review brief, as there are enough other reviews that give thorough summaries of the plot.

I think intellectuals or history buffs would very much enjoy this book. The average reader (like myself) may find it a bit slow and dense much of the time. I definitely enjoyed the plot, as well as learning some Russian history, but I never felt very connected to the characters as they were somewhat flat. Also, I almost called it quit
Sally ☀️
I'm disappointed that I didn't enjoy this more. Going by the blurb, I thought it sounded very interesting and it was about a period of history that I know very little about and thought I'd learn something as well. I appreciate the amount of research that must have gone in to writing this book, but it's unfortunate that while the facts were mostly there, the rest of the book didn't work for me.

I'm wondering if part of the problem I had with this book is down to the fact that it spans around 25 y
Annette Jordan
With perspectives from both sides of the class divide this book centers on a dramatic period in Russian history, as serfdom was being abolished and the oppressed poor were, at least in theory, gaining freedom. I found the dual narratives very effective and found reasons to empathise with many of the characters. Elisaveta, a young woman forbidden by church and custom from marrying her true love is forced into the arms of a cruel and brutal man, while never giving up on her true love. Count Maximo ...more
Nov 18, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
First I want to thank NetGalley and the publisher for my ARC copy for a fair and honest review.

I quite enjoyed this piece of historical fiction. It takes place during the final years of "Serfdom" and the "Bourgeois" era in Russian History. The story revolved around the life of Elizaveta (a Serf) and the Maximov (Bourgeois) family. It covers about a twenty five year span and discusses the hardships and daily trials and tribulations suffered by all.

The characters were well developed and believable
Love, Celina
I am a little disappointed that I didn't like this book more. The blurb intrigued me since I don't know as much about Russian history as I would like to. Which is why I decided to give this a try.
Unfortunately, the writing style was not for me. For me it was boring and I had to force myself to continue reading. I was not able to form a connection with the characters and while the historical part seems like it was well researched, I just could not bring myself to care about what happened next.
belva hullp
Jun 08, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: kindle
(2 1/2*);
I expected to like and appreciate this novel much more that I actually did. It is about the serfs and the nobility in the 1800s just prior to the ending of serfdom. The book seemed to be very well researched and covers a place in time that I am not very familiar with so I was looking forward to the read.
But the characters seemed flat and one dimensional to me and there wasn't much growth there. When one writes a novel that covers this many years one expects to comprehend that growth. T
The Irregular Reader
This book follows the paths of two families--one noble and one serf over two and a half decades in mid 1800s Russia. Elizaveta is an intelligent and hardworking peasant girl who wants nothing more than to marry her true love (and fellow serf), Feodor. Unfortunately, societal and religious factors conspire to keep them apart. Ten we have Count Maximov, who owns the land Elizaveta's and Feodor's families work. We see Maximov trying to balance his family life with the modernization of Russia and th ...more
I won this as a book from Goodreads give aways earlier this year for my kindle and I finally found time to read this book. I'm glad I did. I have not read anything by Jane Marlow before but I found her book incredibly engaging.

Who is to Blame? tells the stories of two families in 19th Century Russia; one of serfs and one of nobles. The story winds between strong-willed Elizaveta, daughter of a serf family and Stephen Maximov, the lord of the estate that Elizaveta and her community live on. Steph
Aug 18, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kendra by: Won in a giveaway
Shelves: abandoned
I thought that I would like this book it had everything a community of downtrodden, a vilified nobleman, a lovelorn protagonist. unfortunately I got bored 5pgs in and I knew giving up on this book was the best thing for me to do. Others may like this particular novel it just was not for me.
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Thanks to my mom and my hometown’s bookmobile, I learned as a young girl to appreciate the written word. Since then, I've has devoted many years to trying to use it properly.

My stories reflect change over time. The characters, like ourselves, have the choice of rolling with life’s punches, or curling into a ball, or gulping a deep breath and building a stronger, more resilient person.

If 1800s Ru