Title: On the Sickle's Edge
Author: Neville D. Frankel
Publish Date: January 15, 2017
Source: TLC Book Tours
What's the Story?:
From Goodreads.com: "A sweeping masterwork of love and loss, secrets and survival, On the Sickle's Edge is told through the voices of three characters who lay bare their family’s saga: the endearing, scrappy South-African born Lena, transported to Latvia and later trapped in the USSR; her granddaughter Darya, a true Communist whose growing disillusionment with Soviet ideology places her family at mortal risk; and Steven, a painter from Boston who inadvertently stumbles into the tangled web of his family’s past. Against the roiling backdrop of twentieth-century Russia and Eastern Europe, the novel delivers equal parts historical drama, political thriller and poignant love story."
My Two Cents:
"On the Sickle's Edge" is a story told in three parts about one extended family whose lives are driven by the Soviet Union. It either tears them apart or pushes them together throughout the book. There is Lena, whose family is torn apart when they leave South Africa for the USSR in the early 1900s. There is Darya, Lena's granddaughter, who is firmly entrenched in the government and living at a time when the Soviet dream is starting to fray. Steven is the great great nephew of Lena and knows nothing of his family living in the USSR as he and his father feel all alone in the United States after leaving South Africa. Spanning almost 100 years, this is a vast family saga that was interesting all the way through in different ways.
The first part of the book feels like a great historical novel. We see how Lena's family left South Africa and how they first went to Latvia before going to the USSR. They are Jewish and like so many people during that time, they had to come up with a whole new background to hide their origins and this imagining of other roots sets off some of the action surrounding Steven having difficulty tracing his family in the future. I loved the detail in this section of the book and almost felt like I wanted more as the book jumps between years (wanting more is always a good sign when a book already stands at almost 450 pages). Lena is such a great character.
Darya and Steven's section of the book almost feel a little bit more like a political thriller. Darya and her husband are deeply involved with the government and her husband is especially so to the point where he is scary. Darya's section of the book shows how she got to where she is by the time that Steven's part of the story picks up.
The beginning and end of the book do seem a little disjointed and make the book feel like multiple books at once but it works. It works because you care about this family and you want to see them through. The writing of the book is good. The author is agile enough to successfully pull off a more traditional historical fiction feel and the thriller feel that you get by the end of the book. Because the book covers so much time, it gives you a good sense of not only the arc of this particular family but the arc of the USSR/ Russia itself. The mirroring is really interesting! This is the kind of book that you get lost in as it takes you on a fantastic ride!