Book Review: Riot Days – Maria Alyokhina

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In 2012 a group calling themselves Pussy Riot staged a protest ,called ‘Punk Prayer’, against Putin and the Russian government. Following their protest  the women were forced to go on the run from the law. Maria, called Masha in the memoir, is one member who gets caught and sent to prison for her ‘crimes’, this is her story.

The story of Pussy Riot hit headlines worldwide, women put in prison simply for protesting. Going into this memoir I didn’t know what to expect, I’d followed the story with interest but wondered what had happened to the women. This memoir explores the reasons behind the protest and what many people forget, the humans who lived it.

The book is set out in a fragmented style, almost as if it were a diary. That said it can make it incredibly hard to read. There were times when the book jumps between time frames and situations, which caused a lot of confusion while reading and meant that I often lost concentration while reading. I also think there was an issue with the translation, some things didn’t come across clearly, leaving me to guess what the author meant.

This is an important book to read, there is a lot we don’t know a lot about what happens to political prisoners. With Masha’s determination and status within her prisons she was able to make some changes to the way women were treated in prison. She was able to give them some basic human rights, many of which they are denied.

It is a fascinating look at the reasons behind the movement, however, there were points where I felt too distant from Masha, I didn’t feel like I knew her as a person. She mentions a son at the beginning but he’s hardly mentioned for the rest of the book, I wanted to know more about her life, her family and who she was outside Pussy Riot.

I gave Riot Days 3 stars. While I enjoyed it and thought that it was an interesting look at the life of a political prisoner and what lead her there. That said, there were issues with the way translations came across and the format made it incredibly difficult to follow.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for this review copy.

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