After enjoying 'One Day In The Life of Ivan Denisovich' and 'Cancer Ward', I decided to try The First Circle. I was a little daunted on seeing the list of featured characters at the beginning of the book (which is very helpful, by the way!), but I loved the fact that the story is told from the point of view of several characters - prisoners and their jailers, the privileged and the alleged enemies of society.
By describing three days in the life of a special prison, Solzhenitsyn presents a microcosm of life in Stalin's Soviet Union. Clearly, the paranoia, the dishonesty and the degrading treatment of those who may simply have happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time make for bleak reading, yet there are many heartening and genuinely amusing moments. As with 'One Day In The Life...', this is a tale of the triumph of the human soul over hopelessness and inhumanity. A brilliant book.