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on 2 September 2010
Spufford has a talent for conveying atmosphere, for recreating an era by means of anecdote, and he uses the technique to good effect here.

The story is of Soviet Russia, and how, through the appliance of science, it will forge ahead of the capitalists. Only it didn't happen like that.

Spufford relates the story by vignettes, first showing how the system might work, and the optimism engendered, then the gradual lapse into economic arthritis that led to the collapse of the system.

Well worth your money and your time.
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on 6 March 2017
Fascinating book, Francis is such a great writer, he really makes this history come to life. I particularly liked the description of how lung cancer started in one of the characters.
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on 12 September 2017
Superb!! Perfect combination of history and facts with literature.Fascinating to read, it offers an in-depth and at the same time wide ranging view of life in the Soviet Union and the internal working of the regime.
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on 15 June 2017
Best book I ever bought one I will always cherish. Appeals to my love of history and stories. lovingly crafted
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on 20 August 2010
This is a fantastic, innovative look at the economic policies of the USSR under Khrushchev. If my opening sentence sounds dull, please don't see it as a true representation of this book. Spufford's approach is to interweave extensive research with the imagination and invention of a novelist. The end result is a fantastic patchwork in which fictional characters rub shoulders with historical ones and stunning descriptive passages add lustre to what might have been dry, factual information.
Some experts might balk at the idea of a non-Russian speaker using secondary sources to construct such a book. Readers of Taubman's biography of Khruschchev might also feel that a sense of 'deja vu' creeps in at points. However, Spufford's 'novelistic' approach brought new angles to this topic for me and certainly made me think about certain aspects of the period in a different way.
I'm not sure that I have done an effective job in this review of explaining the wonderful book Spufford has created. All I can say is that, having read many of Spufford's sources previously, I was hugely impressed with the end result of his creative approach.
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on 2 November 2010
As a 1950's Meccanophile I was thrilled by Spufford's `Backroom Boys' - a tale of British string and sealing wax inventiveness - and was very curious to see what he would make of recent Soviet History. I was not disappointed. He is a piece of work, that Spufford. He can certainly spin a good narrative. He managed to make Soviet History human - combining imagined vignettes of fictional characters with `proper' history. But unlike the usual depressing narratives covering that period (collapse of Communism - inevitable because repressive and over extended militarily) he shines a light on the totally understandable ideological commitment towards an envisioned better future realisable through the application of `Science' - physical, economic and social and managerial. If only the proletariat could be rescued from ignorance and taught to see the light - if only! Utopia is just over the horizon, and why not? What is life about if not the creation of a better world for more people, decent housing, clothing and adequate food? Spufford captures that feeling, that ideological current. Of course we know now that the experiment failed disastrously - but - and this is what I took from Spufford - there were people (ordinary people) who actually wanted it to succeed, who felt that any social organisation was better than a vast peasantry owned by a tiny aristocracy that was pre-revolutionary Russia. Just such a shame that the revolutionaries failed to trust the people.

And more - the 53 pages of notes on which the smooth narrative was based were as fascinating and as informative as the narrative itself. Well done, Spufford.
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on 17 October 2012
Like many other reviewers I thought this to be a history book so I was a little disappointed to find that it was a novel, but you have to read on and I found it enlightening, it explained how communism attempted and failed on so many levels, the book covers many different aspects of Russian life in 50's 60's & 70's through a narrative featuring actual people from the period, one review suggests that it's like a tv 'docu-drama' which is probably as best a description as you could get. A most unusual book.
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on 9 October 2017
From subject matter on the face of it less than auspicious the author has crafted a thought-provoking rich informative work of semi-fiction. For any reader that wants to extend their repertoire.
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on 19 October 2010
This is a brilliant book that takes the reader right back to the '50s and provides a glimpse of just how terrifying the Soviet experiment must have seemed to the "West" at that time. The mixture of fact and fiction works very well in keeping the book readable: detailed chapters on the problems of central planning (fantastic) are leavened with short vignettes of life as a "Red". A great read.
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on 23 June 2011
Really disappointed by the Kindle edition of this book - Faber and Faber have done a real disservice to a great book by pushing out a poorly formatted digital version, clearly without any testing. The book has lots of very long footnotes in each chapter which are completely unlinked to the main text. This means that when you get to the end of each chapter you are presented with page after page of footnotes without any context, making reading the book extremely disjointed.

If publishers are going to carry on the conceit of charging the same for the digital and paper editions the least they should do is actually proofread their own output. It's also a shame that you can't return a Kindle book - Amazon know how much of it I've read, after all. Now I have to put up with a compromised version of the book that cost £1 more than the paperback (at least at the time of purchase). Frustrating and disappointing.
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