We have been accustomed to think of Solzhenitsyn as a hero of our age for his stand against communism. Thomas skilfully and compellingly shows that the truth is far more complex. Solzhenitsyn is a character drawn on a large canvas. He and those around him are flawed, as we all are. This is addressed sympathetically and objectively and the reader left to make up their own mind - a pleasant change from so many other biographies which tell us what to think. The human story is deeply engaging and well presented, but the bigger questions that are raised are at least as compelling. The reader feels the shock of discovery that Solzhenitsyn is NOT a supporter of the modern capitalistic liberal democracy. "Our" way of life is seen as quite as dangerous to humanity as communism. The shallowness of consumerism is impoverishing us all and is the logical outworking of the Enlightenment. Linking Solzhenitsyn's thoughts in this area to Saul Bellow's is particularly interesting - wouldn't it be wonderful to be a fly on the wall if they ever met! Although this book doesn't come into the Five star "must read" category it is excellent, and we must be grateful to Thomas for what he has given us. I would recommend the book to anyone wanting to combine a "good read" with doing some hard thinking about the world we live in.
This book was written as the existing biography of Solzhenitsyn only goes to1984. In the name of "readability", the author gives himself licence to put himself in the conditions, clothes and mind of the young Solzhenitsyn. He does likewise when interpreting the decisions of Solzhenitsyn's father, mother, aunts, grandparents, etc. This is way beyond the limit for any biographer. In any case biographies are never high on the "readability" score.