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Deception: Spies, Lies and How Russia Dupes the West
Deception: Spies, Lies and How Russia Dupes the West
by Edward Lucas
Edition: Hardcover

10 of 22 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Nostalgia, 18 April 2012
I am no supporter of Putin (who seems to be taking his country towards stagnation), but I see Lucas and Putin as two sides of the same coin and will criticise both. There are evidently people in Russia and people in Britain who want the Cold War to continue. In Russia people like Putin flag up the West as hostile to paper over the gap where real policies should be. In Britain it is people like Lucas, and perhaps those who wanted Katia Zatuliveter to be a spy, who seem to want the war to continue. They want us to have an enemy, because we, as a society, seem to have lost direction and it feels easier to define who we are by what we are against (and, of course, many of those still waging that original war are still around, just in more senior positions).

But the world is not the same, despite what this book says. The Soviet Union dissolved (thanks to Russian help!) 20 years ago. Russia might sometimes have parades on Red Square, but its presidential guards are in tsarist uniforms and the double-headed eagle is back. The Orthodox Church is strong, Solzhenitsyn is read at school, the right-wing are happy that the tax rate is flat and Russians can travel to most places (even to the UK, if they are rich enough). Lucas and his like direct their ire at Russia only perhaps because it was Soviet, but that was many moons ago. I think the author may be in danger of seeming to be stuck in his rut.

This book is a plea to try and get us to believe in old squabbles, but that makes it a bit lazy and old-fashioned, and a bit dated like our obsession with Nazis. It would be much better for us if we swept away all this clutter!


The Better Angels of Our Nature: The Decline of Violence In History And Its Causes
The Better Angels of Our Nature: The Decline of Violence In History And Its Causes
by Steven Pinker
Edition: Hardcover

12 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not convinced, 17 April 2012
Well, this is an enormous book. But I think it could perhaps have been shorter (with some judicious editing). On the plus side, it is very entertaining, provocative and readable (Pinker rides again). But, on the down side, there's a danger that we are being blinded by a mass of what is, perhaps, not especially useful data. Whether society is getting civilised rather depends on which society you live in, after all. And how quickly that civilisation can be taken from us (the break-up of Yugoslavia). So be prepared to be entertained, but also be prepared some of the material that is being set down as proof of the argument. It isn't always reliable.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 15, 2013 3:22 PM BST


Let Our Fame Be Great: Journeys among the defiant people of the Caucasus
Let Our Fame Be Great: Journeys among the defiant people of the Caucasus
by Oliver Bullough
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.39

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, 17 April 2012
A brilliant insight into a region which is often misunderstood,and sometimes misrepresented. It tells the story of the Circassians and Chechens, of Daghestan and Abkhazia, of war and struggle. Of Russian imperialism (in all shapes and forms) or local antipathies, and of brave resistance or terrorism. Because this is not a simplistic study, claiming that whole peoples are good or bad. It is a thoughtful study by someone with a great sympathy for the peoples of these lands, and a vaqliant attempt to understand what history does to humanity.


Black Sea: The Birthplace of Civilisation and Barbarism
Black Sea: The Birthplace of Civilisation and Barbarism
by Neal Ascherson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.79

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eloquent and rewarding, 17 April 2012
This magnificent book looks at the history of the peoples who populate the lands around the beautiful Black Sea. Concentrating on the northern, eastern and western coastlines, the author presents what is, in essence, an absorbing regional history which veers from Ancient Greeks to marauding Cossacks. The author is an educated man and talented writer, so one is in safe hands as he takes the reader on a fascinating voyage.


The Discovery of France
The Discovery of France
by Graham Robb
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Very enjoyable, 17 April 2012
I really, really enjoyed this book. It does assume some knowledge of French history, and French geography, but it really does take you on a journey through the culture of the country, and, to an extent, the psyche of the inhabitants. Not in a way that condemns, or judges, but helps one to understand why France is France. The chapters on language/dialect/patois are especially strong. It filled me with the urge to go out and visit more of France. A hearty thanks to the author, and the publisher!


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