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Way back in 2012, Pussy Riot hit the headlines. Doubtless assisted by their memorable name, this group of masked women interrupted a church service in Moscow to protest against Vladimir Putin. Three of the group were caught and put on trial, two of them were jailed.

 

This is the story of Maria Alyokhina, one of the jailed women.

 

Riot Days is a short book, covering the lead up to the protest, the protest itself, a brief spell on the run, the trial and the prison colonies. Alyokhina narrates in a somewhat clipped, jerky fashion. Especially at the start, there is a real lack of any sense of why she and her colleagues are doing what they are doing, They don't like Putin, but there is no hint of why they don't like him. It is an almost childlike push back against authority for no reason. 

 

This continues through the trial and prison. Alyokhina rebels against everything. She argues and pushes back in a system in which to do so has always been counter-productive. And always it seems to be without particular reason. A battle fought over a padlock that has been imposed because of a refusal to follow an instruction. Although this defies explanation, it lifts an otherwise ordinary retelling of the Gulag Archipelago to a new level. We see how a system manages to both live by an unbending framework of rules and make things up as it goes along. It is Kafkaesque, but very real. And there is a fascinating portrait of someone who is contrary regardless of consequence - and what happens when she takes on the monolithic system.

 

In honesty, this is not a great piece of writing. It is clunky, linear and ends abruptly. But it is so compelling it is hard to turn away.  

 

****0

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Thank you for your many reviews Mr. H.G.  You certainly keep the BGO up to date on many books.  I think I would qualify as a reader with narrow taste and therefore usually don't get to read new authors although I will reserve books from the library that strike a note with me.  I don't buy the new releases as they are often more pricey than what I want to pay.  I do have Hillary Clinton's book on reserve, I am 46th in line for the one copy!

 

I do read your reviews so thanks again for your input.

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