COMRADE FOX: Low-living in Revolutionary Russia (The Life and Times of Archibald Brinsley Fox) by Stewart Hennessey

“I never gave a monkeys for Marxism or Monarchism or Liberalism or Conservatism or Socialism or any ism. I’ve always been leery of anyone brandishing an ism – an excuse to howl at the moon if you ask me. And they’re all moralists too, always got it in for someone else, usually someone like me.” – Archibald Brinsley Fox.
Written in the style of a diary, ‘Low-Living in Revolutionary Russia’ is Archie Fox’s story of his time spent in Revolutionary Russia. He spent his time cosying up to Lenin, trying to seduce his mistress and hunting for a Faberge egg, but all that is just the surface level of this book. He marks the difference between bolsheviks and Mensheviks, describes the call to arms in Petrograd and even prisoners of war going on strike. With a large collection of well researched endnotes adding to the story, this is one for those with an interest in The October Revolution and those with a liking for adventure and intrigue.

Personally, I’ve never been a huge fan of historical novels, although I always feel like I should be, but Archie Fox’s adventures are genuinely captivating; so much so that I found myself reaching for the endnotes to learn more. Archie is headstrong, with loose morals and yet you can’t help but like him. You might not want to spend any time in his company, but as a character in a book he offers the perfect balance of intrigue and despicable behaviour. Simply put, it’s a love-hate scenario.

The writing style is what really makes this novel captivating, as it has an upbeat rhythm which ensures that you can’t stop reading. Combine that with Fox’s escapades and you very quickly become swept along with the story and forget that it is rooted in historical accuracy; until the name Lenin pops up. Hearing about a man trying to seduce Lenin’s mistress catches your interest like nothing else. It simply isn’t the type of thing you learn at school or college and for anyone who doesn’t have a firm knowledge of revolutionary Russia, this is one of the most effective ways of learning about it.

I imagine that this could be a book to divide the audience, as those who are particularly sensitive to political correctness might not see the humour in it, but in my experience anything that doesn’t beg to be accepted by the masses is usually worth a read and a little controversy never did anyone any harm.