Top positive review
A masterful panorama of the Stalin years
25 June 2018
A gripping and truly masterful work. Simon Sebag Montefiore has put together a very adept, voluminous work of scholarship that is by far the most broadranging and far sighted work on Stalin that this reader has yet read (though still have yet to read Service's biography).
In the preface, Montefiore acknowledges his collaboration with the other masterful scholars of Stalinism, Robert Service and Oleg Khlevniuk, so this leads me to think of this book as not a competitor to the other masterful scholars, but rather a stand alone work to be read on its own merits, along with the other works.
So why read this, by far the lengthiest out of the aforementioned works, rather than the more concise offerings from Service or Khlevniuk? Because this is by far the most broad ranging panorama of Stalin's court. It entirely lives up to its title, it covers all the characters and intrigue of Stalin's court, so think of this work not so much as a biography (although it definitely is) and more of a panorama. In this sense, the strength of this work is the insight into all the other characters, giving perhaps the fullest picture of the politics of the Stalin era this reader has yet read.
The book itself is lengthy and challenging, and this was completed on my second attempt. It begins as something of a slow starter, and the covering of Stalin's terror is very detailed and becomes lengthy at times, but if one wants a complete picture, then one is unlikely to be disappointed.
In short a masterful work, confirming Simon Sebag Montefiore as one of the pre-eminent historians of the modern day.