MixedLos Angeles Review of BooksThe story of American intervention in the Russian Civil War is well known and has been told many times before. Journalist and author Barnes Carr would have us believe, however, that there is much we still don’t know about this history, which he purports to reveal in The Lenin Plot: The Untold Story of America’s Midnight War Against Russia . The administration of President Woodrow Wilson, he writes, launched a secret operation together with Britain and France to topple the fledgling Soviet state and then assassinate Lenin and other top officials. The story Carr recounts is dramatic, but it’s not new ... This pattern recurs throughout the book: tantalizing hints of grand and nefarious American plots are dropped along the way to keep the reader in suspense, only later to be dispelled as mirages. In short, there’s a good deal of heat in Carr’s book, but precious little light ... What’s more, The Lenin Plot is littered with errors, inaccuracies, and misstatements.
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal...a fascinating and nuanced account that illuminates the myriad conflicting and often contradictory forces that have shaped the Russia of today ... The stories here reveal attitudes toward power and personal responsibility that stretch far back in Russia’s past. It is not a matter of oppressor and oppressed; the state has long existed in relation to the citizenry as an \'omnipresent force,\' to quote Mr. Yaffa. He notes that Russians treat \'the Putin state as a given—neither good nor bad, but simply there, like an element in the earth’s atmosphere.\' Since the state cannot be changed or defeated, it has been \'to your advantage to guess what it wanted from you, and to deliver that while also being clever enough to extract some benefit for yourself.\' In such a game, few people come out unscathed.
Vasily Grossman, Trans. by Robert Chandler and Elizabeth Chandler
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalPopoff tells Grossman’s story with sensitivity and a keen understanding of his world, drawing on little-known archival collections to produce what must be considered the definitive biography. Throughout she highlights Grossman’s resistance to the twin totalitarian evils of his time—Nazism and Stalinism—and the defense of human freedom that animates all his writing ... Although Grossman’s epic can’t match the artistry of Tolstoy, Stalingrad is a profoundly moving homage to the millions of victims of the last century.
RaveThe Los Angeles Review of BooksRappaport has dug deeply in archives around the world and uncovered a wealth of new information that is certain to make The Race to Save the Romanovs the definitive work on the subject. The story is both fascinating and tragic ... Rappaport does away with the mistaken notion that it was all somehow King George’s fault ... Now, thanks to her excellent book, she has put to rest the fallacy that any one person could have saved the last Romanovs, either from the Bolsheviks or from themselves.
RaveThe Wall Street Journal...an accessible, fair and marvelously written biography that reinforces what we have learned in the past three decades ... For anyone interested in an introduction to the world’s greatest revolutionary that draws on the latest research, Mr. Sebestyen’s Lenin would be the place to start ... there’s little about Lenin’s writings or his theories in Mr. Sebestyen’s book. This is very much an intimate portrait, squarely focused on Lenin the man.
RaveThe Los Angeles Review of BooksThe definitive history of Stalin’s famine that leaves no doubt about the regime’s role not only in creating the conditions that led to mass starvation, but also in taking advantage of the chaos to crush Ukrainian nationhood … Drawing on a wealth of archival documents and newly published studies, Applebaum, in careful, measured steps, shows just how the famine unfolded and was then used for a range of repressive actions against what a paranoid Stalin believed to be counterrevolutionary nationalists, fifth column traitors, and assorted class enemies and 'former people' (i.e., déclassé aristocrats, bourgeois, clergy, et cetera) plotting to subvert the Soviet Union and win Ukrainian independence.
RaveThe Wall Street Journal...[a] masterful book ... it offers a rich, fascinating and nuanced examination of the role of the arts in Russian history ... Mr. Morrison recounts this struggle between art and politics, with all its depressing collateral damage, to great effect.
MixedThe Wall Street Journal...[an] entertaining yet flawed new novel ... The novel buzzes with the energy of numerous adventures, love affairs, twists of fate and silly antics. Mr. Towles never bores, and he keeps the pace going at a brisk clip ... The author’s light, waggish style suited the café society of Rules of Civility, but Stalin’s Soviet Union is another matter, and this is where his novel fails...Mr. Towles’s novel misses the pulse of Soviet life, and he writes about matters as if one could just as easily be referring to Paris or Rome.