10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
A necessary book,
This review is from: The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin's Russia (Hardcover)
This is a really first-rate book. Like no other book before, it lets the reader feel what it was like to live through the Stalin years. Based on interviews and family archives, which Figes has collected from homes across Russia, it is made up of small stories, which are beautifully woven into a tapestry of Soviet life. Some of the stories are harrowing, at times I found it hard to keep reading, but there are also tales of extraordinary courage and resilience that give the book a moral lift.
At the centre of the book is the fascinating figure of Konstantin Simonov, a writer deeply implicated in the Stalinist regime, who nonetheless is portrayed here as a sympathetic personality with many admirable qualities that were gradually lost through moral compromise. Was it possible, Figes seems to ask, be a "good Stalinist"? The Simonov sections make this book worth reading on their own.
The Whisperers is a real triumph. Meticulously researched and beautifully written, without the slightest moralizing, lecturing, or taking sides, at times it has the moral quality of Primo Levi in its recounting of human suffering and resilience. Read this book - it will make you re-examine what it means to be a human being.