The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
A Recommended Book of the Month
Moscow, 1929: a city that has lost its way amid corruption and fear, inhabited by people who have abandoned their morals and forsaken spirituality. But when a mysterious stranger arrives in town with a bizarre entourage that includes a giant talking cat and a fanged assassin, all hell breaks loose. Among those caught up in the strange and inexplicable events that transpire in the capital are the Master, a writer whose life has been destroyed by Soviet repression, and his beloved Margarita. Their adventures reveal a story that began two thousand years ago in ancient Jerusalem - and its resolution will decide their fate.
Mikhail Bulgakov’s novel The Master and Margarita is set during the 1930’s and was not published until after his death in the 1960’s. The 30's was a time of turmoil in Russia, when it was becoming bureaucratic and people were starting to watch their neighbours. At the time of the book it was common for people to ‘disappear’ for unexplained reasons, and the author has satirised this and based his story on these disappearances. But in this case it is not because the government is taking its citizens, instead it is because the Devil has turned up in Moscow to judge the souls of this atheist nation.
The book starts with what seems like a chance meeting in a park between the Devil and two members of the Moscow literary society, who are debating the fact that Jesus could not exist, by discussing the story of Pontius Pilate and Jesus. As the Devil exists then so must God is his contention.
The story itself is very well written, there are a lot of twists and characters coming and going. Like a lot of Russian novels there can sometimes be confusion while keeping track of people's names as they will use different forms depending on how formal the situation is.
The characters the Devil keeps around him are a motley crew of anarchists; his spokesman, who introduces himself as an ex-choir master, Koroviev, constantly makes people question themselves; Azazello; who is described as vampire-fanged and wall-eyed; Hella; a succubus and behemoth who is a large black cat that acts and talks like a human (who can be very infuriating). There is a feeling of menace throughout the novel as characters are swept up in events and sent out of the way on the whim of the Devil’s entourage.
The title characters, the Master and Margarita, although appearing in the first part of the book only become central to the story in the second half. We find out that amidst all of the chaos there is also a love story, about how, when the Master disappeared Margarita stayed true to him and is resolved not to give up… Which is how she becomes central to the Devils plans.
Overall I think that the book shows you how easy it is to become greedy and cynical, to not be able to see what is happening around you, and if you see it not being able to believe it. The citizens of Moscow are a contrast between what they see and what they want, with Margarita, who in her own way, is a pure soul.
The Master and Margarita was included in The World Book Night Top 100 books to read, give and share.
Considered one of the finest creations of Russian literature in the 20th century, The Master and Margarita is an amazing work of fantasy, a love story, a biting satire on Soviet life, and a lot more. Mikhail Bulgakov's last book and crowning achievement, it has been written in secrecy, burned and restored, and banned for decades. Its author, who worked on it until his final days, never saw it in print. English-speaking audiences may fully enjoy Bulgakov's masterpiece.
This The Master and Margarita book review was written by Michelle Herbert
Have you read The Master and Margarita?
We've found that while readers like to know what we think of a book they find additional reader reviews a massive help in deciding if it is the right book for them. So if you have a spare moment, please tell us your thoughts by writing a reader's review. Thank you.
The Master and Margarita reader reviews
Tan from Alaska
An extremely hard to read book, with intertextual inferences throughout the entire book. However, this will excite you - only if you bow down and read it thoroughly.
Bill from USA
The first time I read this book was when I was a graduate student, and I had a hard time with it. Finishing it, I decided that here was a masterpiece for professors of Russian literature, a great way to torment their students; there was a mass of characters and places, loads of inferences, connections, connotations, denotations...you get the idea. I read it a few years later, and I liked it. I read it a third time when I was in my late twenties. By then I was hooked. This is the kind of book that every time you dig into it, you pull out a different precious jewel. I still read it, sometimes just a piece or two of it, sometimes straight through. I have but one complaint. How do you answer when someone asks, "What's the book about"? Well, let's see... It's a love story, a satire of Soviet life, a comic novel, a strange re-telling of a biblical tale, a philosophical treatise on good and evil, a history book, a fairy tale, a book of magical realism, a menippean satire (Professors love to call it that), meaning it's like "Alice in Wonderland" and "The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy." which is pretty good company, I think. "Master and Margarita" is all those things, plus whatever ten or so things you will add after you have read it, or maybe read it a couple of times.
8.8/10 from 3 reviews
Write a reader review
Thank you for taking the time to write a review on this book, it really makes a difference and helps readers to find their perfect book.
More recommended reading in this genre
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Two magicians shall appear in England. The first shall fear me; the second shall long to behold me The year is 1806. England is beleaguered by the long war with Napoleon, a...
Guy Gavriel Kay
For two years Shen Tai has mourned his father, living like a hermit beyond the borders of the Kitan Empire, by a mountain lake where terrible battles have long been fought ...
The Yiddish Policemen's Union
What if, as Franklin Roosevelt once proposed, Alaska - and not Israel - had become the homeland for the Jews after World War II? In Michael Chabon's Yiddish-speaking ...
Hats off to Brandenburg
London, 1815 – The Roxy Playhouse is in trouble! The Roxy Playhouse Irregulars, those libertine artists and dreamers, are up to their necks in debt – “Pay...
Catherynne M Valente
Child of the revolution, maiden of myth, bride of darkness. A handsome young man arrives in St Petersburg at the house of Marya Morevna. He is Koschei, the Tsar of Life, an...
Only five still guard the borders between the worlds. Only five hold back what waits on the other side. Once the Oversight, the secret society that polices the lines betwee...
The Gamehouse is an unusual institution. Many know it as the place where fortunes can be made and lost through games of Chess, Backgammon - every game under the sun. But a ...
The Bear and the Nightingale
In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, a stranger with piercing blue eyes pres...
Nights at the Circus
Is Sophie Fevvers, toast of Europe's capitals, part swan... or all fake? Courted by the Prince of Wales and painted by Toulouse-Lautrec, she is an aerialiste extraordin...
In the ancient city-state of Gujaareh, peace is the only law. Upon its rooftops and amongst the shadows of its cobbled streets wait the Gatherers – the keepers of thi...
The War at Troy
The people who lived in those days were closer to gods than we are, and great deeds and marvels were commoner then, which is why the stories we have from them are nobler an...
The Golem and the Djinni
Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master, the husband who commissioned her, di...
Land of Hope and Glory
It is 1852. The Indian empire of Rajthana has ruled Europe for more than a hundred years. With their vast armies, steam-and-sorcery technology and mastery of the mysterious...
One Hundred Years of Vicissitude
"First up, a disclaimer. I suspect I am a dead man. I have meagre proof, no framed- up certification, nothing to toss in a court of law as evidence of a rapid departur...
Those Poor, Poor Bastards
The year is 1868... In the Sierra Nevada, during the expansion of the Central Pacific Railroad, Nina Weaver and her pa, Lincoln, trundle into Coburn Station with a wagonful...
Looking for more suggestions? Try these pages:
Books of the Month
A selection of books - old and new alike - that were a joy to read.
When Vivian is evacuated from London in 1939, she expects to be staying in the countryside. Instead, she is whisked away to Time City – a place that exists outside time and space. It is a strange and remarkable place, where technology rules – yet important events of both past and future are marked by the appearance of mysterious Time...
The Guns of Empire
As the roar of the guns subsides and the smoke of battle clears, the country of Vordan is offered a fragile peace... After their shattering defeats at the hands of brillian...
At the Convent of Sweet Mercy young girls are raised to be killers. In a few the old bloods show, gifting talents rarely seen since the tribes beached their ships on Abeth....
Events are coming to a climax in the Banished Lands, as the war reaches new heights. King Nathair has taken control of the fortress at Drassil and three of the Seven Treasu...
For Kivrin Engle, preparing an on-site study of one of the deadliest eras in humanity's history was as simple as receiving inoculations against the diseases of the four...
The Banished Lands are engulfed in war and chaos. The cunning Queen Rhin has conquered the west and High King Nathair has the cauldron, most powerful of the seven treasures...