34 of 40 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars
A good survey but with problems, 11 Jun. 2004
To the English reader who does not know the history of the camps, or who has not read the many memoirs published about them, this is a very useful survey. It gives a clear account of the origins and development of the Gulag system and uses the memoir literature to describe the organization of work and daily life within the camps, and to bring to life the suffering of the millions of people inside them. As with any general survey, there is a problem, however, with stereotyping - and this book is guilty on that score. It does not take account of the many different types of camps, not all quite the horror story presented uniformly in this book. And it tends to accept at face value the reminscences of the camp inmates, without questioning the extent to which their memoirs (written for the most part in the period after 1956) were accurate. Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago is better in this sense, because it represents these memories in a direct way, as oral history, and that is still the best account of the Gulag.