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Just Send Me Word: A True Story of Love and Survival in the Gulag Audio CD – Audiobook, 22 May 2012


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Product details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Tantor Media Inc; Unabridged edition (22 May 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1452608008
  • ISBN-13: 978-1452608006
  • Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 2.8 x 13.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,764,540 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Orlando Figes is Professor of History at Birkbeck College, University of London. His books include The Whisperers, A People's Tragedy and Natasha's Dance. He lives in Cambridge.

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Review

A poignant record ... as fascinating and inspiring as it is heartbreaking ... It is impossible to read without shedding tears (Simon Sebag Montefiore Financial Times)

This powerful narrative by a distinguished historian will take its place not just in history but in literature (Robert Massie)

Electrifying, passionate, devoted, despairing, exhilarating ... a tale of hope, resilience, grit and love (The Times)

Remarkable ... moving... possesses extraordinary value ... a notable contribution to Gulag literature (Max Hastings Sunday Times)

Immensely touching ... [a] heartening gem of a book (Anna Reid Literary Review)

The remarkable true story of a love affair between two Soviet citizens ... as much a literary challenge as a historical one: the book can be read as a non-fiction novel (Telegraph)

Figes has achieved something extraordinary ... the gulag story lacks individuals for us to sympathise with: a Primo Levi, an Anne Frank or even an Oskar Schindler. Just Send Me Word may well be the book to change that ... the kind of love that most of us can only dream of (Oliver Bullough Independent)

Remarkable ... Figes, selecting and then interpreting this mass of letters, makes them tell two kinds of story. The first is a uniquely detailed narrative of the gulag, of the callous, slatternly universe which consumed millions of lives ... The second is about two people determined not to lose each other (Neal Ascherson Guardian)

A quiet, moving and memorable account of life in a totalitarian state ... The book often reads like a novel ... captivating (Evening Standard)

Orlando Figes has wrought something beautiful from dark times (Ian Thomson Observer)

A heart-rending record of extraordinary human endurance (Kirkus Reviews)

[A] remarkable tale of love and devotion during the worst years of the USSR ... [Figes's] fine narrative pacing enhances this moving, memorable story (Publishers Weekly) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Orlando Figes is the author of "The Crimean War," "The Whisperers," "Natasha's Dance," and "A People's Tragedy," which have been translated into more than twenty languages. The recipient of the Wolfson History Prize and the "Los Angeles Times" Book Prize, among others, Figes is a professor of history at Birkbeck College, University of London. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Zipster Zeus on 20 Nov. 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is an intriguing book and an at times fascinating glimpse behind the Soviet iron curtain and the often arbitary terrors of the gulag are charted here with clever precision.

That has of course a lot to do with Orlando Figes skills as a writer- I often think he could make a recipe for rice pudding sound interesting- but that skill is also what carries off a book that is still decidedly lumpy. To be honest I really couldn't develop any empathy for, or deep understanding of the two central characters and it pains me to say it, but these may be some of the most mundane love letters I've ever read.

So if you are a student of the soviet system and fascinated by the gulags and the socio-political contradictions of a communist ideal twisted into the horrors of Stalinism, then this is a good charting of all that. An emotive love story however, it is not, and to my mind this book is too heavy on the letter extracts, which at the end to my shame I ended up skim reading and then at times simply skipping. I would rather have had more Figes and less 'ramblings' and so the book should have, by rights, have been about half the length. Then, perhaps, it would have packed a bit more of an emotive punch.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Consumer A VINE VOICE on 16 Jun. 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
A cache of over 1,240 letters from Lev to Sveta smuggled in and out of Gulag from 1946 to 1954 tells a heroic true story of an inside view of Stalin's labour camps. This is a story of love and survival. It charts the horror Stalin's victims went through. The harshness and injustice of life in Russia before during and after World War 11. The letters of course were written in Russian and are now housed at the archives in Moscow - the largest private collection relating to Gulags. Historically amazing. There must have been so much to sift through , choose etc., and then there is the translation from Russian to English. These Documents and background history of Lev and Sveta and their parents and friends do highlight how talented future physicists, mathematicians, scientists, polymaths were neutralised and made impotent by a suspicious State apparatus. Perhaps a mainstream film or even better a Television serial dramatisation would be very successful.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Red on Black TOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 28 Oct. 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Orlando Figes has become renown over recent years for the Amazon scandal which saw him desperately posting anonymous reviews on this website praising his own work and criticising rivals. This led him to pay libel damages and costs to his "victims" and besmirched a reputation of what was one of our finest historians. He has since been ploughing away attempting to put these setbacks behind him. Indeed we would do well to remember that scandal or otherwise his magisterial work on the years which led to Bolshevik revolution and the emergence of Stalinism "A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution, 1891-1924" remains the best one volume history of this period. Thus he has since offered profound apologies to all involved for his review faux paus and is gradually moving on (but see below). There have of course been a number of big histories of the horror of the Gulags not least the work of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn of which the seminal "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" is the most approachable; while in terms of pure straightforward history Anne Applebaum's "Gulag" that deals with the evolution and culture of USSR's punishment and labour camps cannot be touched as historical narrative.

For his latest book Figes has therefore wisely gone into micro history of the period. "Just send me word" is the story of Lev Mishchenko and Svetlana Ivanova. His primary source is a cache of old love letters sent between the couple which somehow survived being smuggled out of camps and the distance of 1500 miles apart. In essence this is a poignant book that details the story of the love affair between Lev and Sveta and a romance that survived the worst turbulence that the 20th century and its "War of the Worlds" could throw at them.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By DubaiReader VINE VOICE on 30 Oct. 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I have to review this book for Amazon Vine, but it turned out I managed even better, I got to hear the author tell the story from the book, himself. The whole room was riveted as he told the story of how Svetlana Ivanova and Lev Mishchenko managed to exchange hundreds of letters while Lev was incarcerated in Stalin's infamous Gulag. Over a period of eleven years these letters were carried by sympathisers, in and out of the camp, and as a result they were not subject to the enforced censorship that other correspondence had suffered. The collection of letters and other documents was donated to a human rights charity in Moscow and forms the basis of Orlando Figes' book.

Not only were the letters unusual in that they had not been censored, it was also rare for such a collection to be kept intact; it would have represented a considerable danger for them both if they had been discovered. On top of this, Svetlana even managed to smuggle herself in, in person, on a couple of occasions.
As an amazing addendum to their story, it turned out that both Lev and Svetlana were still alive, in their nineties, as the time that the author was researching his book. He met them in 2008 and the meeting was filmed by the BBC. We were able to see part of this footage during the presentation.

The book presents a rare image, both of life in The Gulag and of the struggle of living in Moscow between 1946 and 1954. There are photographs of both Lev and Svetlana, their families and others from the era and, altogether this represents an amazing account.

(Readers may also be interested in Morning Comes and Also the Night by Marijcke Jongbloed, based on letters smuggled between Japanese camps in Indonesia. The author was born in one of these camps)
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