91 of 97 people found the following review helpful
A clinical dissection of Stalin,
This review is from: Stalin: A Biography (Hardcover)
Stalin has had more biographies than even the most dedicated russophile would care to read. So why read this one?
Well, many of Stalin's biographies are warped by the context they were written in. During the cold war the history of Stalin became a battleground in itself, with historians either portraying him either as a crazed bureacrat, a monster, or nigh on a God.
Service makes use of newly available evidence and weaves together a balanced, clear and comprehensive portrait of Stalin. More than any other biography of Stalin I've read it provides a rounded portrayal of this most controversial of figures. However, whilst being dispassionate helps Service cooly analyse his subject, this also leads to this biography being somewhat dry.
If you want to gain a thorough understanding of Stalin without worrying the autor has a hidden agenda, this biography is unsurpassed. However, if you want to get a feel for the warped version of reality that characterised life close to Stalin, and prefer something a bit more readable, Simon Sebag Montefiore's book 'Court of the Red Tsar' may be a better choice.
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Initial post: 25 Sep 2014 15:56:34 BDT
Like a lot of others, it seems, I've always been fascinated to know how Stalin got to the position he did, but when I picked up a biography in a local library just by reading the blurb I could see I wasn't going to get an unbiased opinion. I've no time for reading a huge tome by an apologist for what Stalin did or didn't do, so the search went on and paragraph two of Matt's review struck a chord with me straight away, though I actually was lead to this one by Service's biography of Trotsky, that's the one that lead me to know here would be the reliable biography of Stalin I've been looking for for years.
I disagree with the "somewhat dry" comment, I think it's eminently readable, but that's a matter of taste I suppose, and I will put the 'Court of the Red Tsar' on my reading list as it sounds like an interesting contrast, but I think Service employs an admirable restraint whilst sticking to the known facts (especially after seeing an interview with him on Youtube), that is harder to do than Service makes it seem.
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