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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Trotsky's final years, 18 Jun. 2009
This review is from: Stalin's Nemesis: The Exile and Murder of Leon Trotsky (Hardcover)
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Trotsky. Trotsky, Trotsky, Trotsky.

One of the most famous intellectuals of the twenty-first century, instrumental in the February Revolution of 1917, which disposed of the Romanov rule that had gripped the country for the last 300 years, and also key in the Bolshevik coup of October that year. He was, at one time, deemed by many to be the most powerful man in Russia - he formed and controlled the Red Army. Ironically, many in the post-Lenin government feared that he would become a Bonaparte-type figure - a military dictator. To avoid the goatee-d, bespectacled intellectual from becoming the leader of Communist Russia, many turned to a relatively unremarkable member of the Party as a moderate figure - a man called Joseph Stalin...

Though this book does touch upon those events to a certain extent, it is largely focussed on the period after Trotsky's expulsion from Russia, his last few years in Mexico where he eked out a living writing (all his books are recommended, if tendentious, reading on Soviet Russia) and, of course, his death.

The Strangler's song, No More Heroes, contains the lyric: "Whatever happened to Leon Trotsky? He got an ice pick / that made his ears burn." Well, that is essentially it. There is no conspiracy. Nonetheless, Patenaude's highly readable account of Trotsky's final years is one of the best I've read. There were occasions when it felt like one was drowning in obscure Mexican names, but for the most part the prose was simple and effective, and very revealing.

This book is probably of most interest to those who already have some knowledge of the basis facts of pre-Revolution Russia, but it's written in such a way that, even if you don't, it's still a remarkable account of the desperate last days of one of the most contentious historical figures of all time. I was impressed.

(For the history student of the recent Edexcel course, it makes good background reading on a key figure in Russian/Communist history, but for a better overview I would recommended the indispensable The Russian Revolution.)
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