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A tale of another dystopia

29 March 2017

The Red Coffin (Inspector Pekkala #2)The Red Coffin by Sam Eastland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this book only three years ago, and could not remember it at all. It was like reading a completely new book. The only scene that triggered any memory at all; was right at the very end.

So what can I say about such an unmemorable book? That I enjoyed reading it the scond time because I can’t remember what I thought the first time? I won’t try to review it, but will just comment on what i thought was one of the saddest scenes in the whole book. Inspector Pekkala is a member of Stalin’s secret police, and the only one who has the trust of Stalin. Twenty years earlier he was an equally-trusted secret policeman of the Tsar. The sad scene has little to do with the unfolding of the plot, but has a great deal to say about the contradictions of living in a totalitarian state.

It is the story of Talia, the little girl whose parents were taken away to the Gulag, though they were good communists. So she lives with her grandmother in the same building as Pekkala, Stalin’s special investigator. Talia comes to call Pekkala to have tea with her grandmother, wearing her Young Pioneers uniform, which she still wears, even through her membership was revoked when her parents were arrested. That is the saddest story in the book.

And Pekkala goes to have tea with Babayaga, and finds her cutting up newspapers, or rather cutting out small pieces, with nail scissors. She was planning to use the newspaper as toilet paper. She said she is cutting out Stalin’s name, because she heard about a man who used old newspaper for toilet paper, and when the police came to search his house they found some in the toilet, and arrested him because it had Stalin’s name on it. That she should happily tell this to Stalin’s own special investigator is one of the most self-authenticating parts in the book.

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