Top positive review
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Heavy going at times, but worth it
on 22 October 2004
One thing I will agree with other reviews on this book is that is certainly heavy going at times, but to counter this one must understand that the subject matter we are dealing with here is in itself very heavy going.
Anna Applebaum, I think, offers a reasonable balanced historical review of what was however one looks at is a tragedy of the human race. One review remarked that the statistics used in the book where way off the mark, stating the reported deaths at the hands of Stalin were far lower. Even at this lower amount I think we can all agree it was still a tragedy and to be honest genocide.
What shocked me most in the book was not the numbers though, and I would urge anyone who is going to read this to look past them and really try and delve into the human stories and aspects of the book - from all participants. Now you must be careful with any eye witness account as we all know but the stories that come out of this book are at times truly horrific.
I don't want anyone how reads this to think that the book glorifies the violence of the time, Applebaum actually deals with it quite sensitively and in truth doesn't spend a huge amount of time on it. That is what makes it horrific.
The vivid accounts of the treatment these prisons received belies believe and even having read in detail the practises I cannot begin to imagine what life must have been like during these times. Having feelings such as this after having finished reading is what makes the book as powerful as it is. No dramatics, no song and dance, just short accounts that could honestly make your toes curl.
I would hope that anyone reading this book is adult enough to make up their own mind and not to be swayed into changing their entire belief system over one book. If you don't believe areas of the book, read other books that I am sure will offer a different, and most certainly valid point. Take this for what it is and I hope from it you will learn something, just as I did.