On completion: The author of this book, Steven Lee Myers, was the New York Time's Moscow Bureau Chief until 2007. As a journalist stationed in MoscowOn completion: The author of this book, Steven Lee Myers, was the New York Time's Moscow Bureau Chief until 2007. As a journalist stationed in Moscow he has followed all that has happened in Russia in close detail. In this book he traces Putin's rise to power, his years in the presidency from 2000 as well as his collaboration with Dimitry Medvedev during 2008 through 2011. The book is detailed, well researched, extremely thorough and could not be more up-to-date! Even events of 2015 are included. The presentation is chronological.
The book provides a complete summary all that has been in the news concerning Russia over the last decades. What exactly? Examples follow: - Gorbachev's reign - Yeltsin's reign - the wars in Chechnya - missile defense discussions - the sinking of the submarine Kursk in the Barents Sea - the Moscow theater siege and hostage crisis (2002) - the suicide bombing of two domestic Russian aircraft in 2004 - Ivan Rybkin's kidnapping in 2004 when he accused the Putin administration of complicity in the 1999 bomb attacks in Moscow which led to the Second Chechen War - the Beslan school siege and hostage crisis (2004), - the expropriation/dismantling of the Yukos Oil Company in 2005 - the poisoning and death of Alexander Litvinenko (2006) - the Russian offensive in Georgia in 2008 and of course - the recent annexation of the Crimea (2014).
So you think the list is long? I have named but a few of the many, many incidents cited in this book, all of which have received widespread media coverage. So the book is a great summary of all that has been reported in the news, but the question is if it gives anything new. So many of the ‘crimes’ committed remain without conclusive proof. What exactly is fact and what hearsay? The result is you can believe whatever you want to believe. Russians have chosen to believe one version, and we with what we define as a freer press and more democratic way of life see the events differently. Read in one sweep, you are left thoroughly dismayed by what has occurred in Russia after the fall of the U.S.S.R. One is left frightened by where the world stands today.
Do I now understand Vladimir Putin? I certainly have not gotten into his head! That is impossible; no one is privy to his inner thoughts, and you certainly cannot rely on what he or what he allows the Russian media to say. His control over the media is tight; only recently has any dissent been able to be voiced via the net. Everything personal is covered up. Extremely little is known about his two daughters. Marilya was born 1985, is married to the Dutch Jorrit Faassen and has one child. Yekatarina was born in 1986. She remains unmarried. Vladimir married his wife Lyudmila in 1983. In 2013 the termination of their marriage was publicly announced. The decision was said to be mutual. It is the total lack of information that is most chilling. Do not expect much information about either Putin’s personal thoughts or family! It is his actions we can observe, and one can only make educated guesses at what has happened behind the scenes.
Why is it that Putin has such strong popular support? This was one of the questions I hoped would be answered by reading this book. I do understand the people’s support when he first came in to power - he spoke of eliminating corruption; he promised to get rid of the oligarchies. He reduced taxes. He increased wages. But now? 85% of the people support him. Corruption remains rampant and the standard of living for the large majority remains low. The masses scarcely care what happens to the stock market….. Putin’s almost complete control of the media, the total obliteration of all dissent, the lack of conclusive evidence proving his complicity may explain much, but I also believe one has to understand how Putin plays to the people’s strong sense of patriotism, their inherent love of their country. This comes to the point where it isolates them from rest of the world. While the book shows all this, the question itself is never directly answered head on.
The audiobook is well narrated by Rene Ruiz. Clearly and not too fast, but given the book’s detailed content and many, many foreign names it is very hard to follow in the audio format. I recommend reading the paper book instead.
Due to its extensive political, business and economic detail, the book cannot be seen as a light read, even in the paper format! Only occasionally does ironic humor lighten the load. Yes, I am glad I read the book, but it was a very hard read.
I have listened to about 25%:
I have to be upfront about this - the book puts me to sleep sometimes. So many people I don't recognize. Lines that leave me confused. An overload of facts for my puney brain. Yeah, I guess I am learning about what Putin has done to get where he is today....but do I know the man now? And how much will I remember? I don't think a non-fiction book has to be this dry.
I will continue........
Maybe if I complain it will improve????????! ...more
I am wondering if there isn't enough depth since the book records the words of so very many individuals. I am glad the book was compiled, but maybe noI am wondering if there isn't enough depth since the book records the words of so very many individuals. I am glad the book was compiled, but maybe not exactly what I am looking for?...more
Everybody knows about the famous Brown versus Board of Education case (1954) where the Supreme Court declared state laws establishing separate publicEverybody knows about the famous Brown versus Board of Education case (1954) where the Supreme Court declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students to be unconstitutional.
This book covers the earlier Sweet Trials of 1925 and 1926. Here the focus is instead housing/residential segregation. Ossian Sweet (1895 – 1960) was a black American physician who bought a home in a white residential area in Detroit, Michigan. Through armed self-defense he attempted to protect his newly purchased home against a mob trying to force him out. (view spoiler)[Ossian Sweet, as well as his wife, brother, cousin and friends who all tried to help him defend his property, were acquitted of murder charges by an all-white jury. (hide spoiler)] There were two trials. James Weldon Johnson, general secretary of the NAACP, was able to interest the famed defense lawyer Clarence Darrow to take charge of the defense. Darrow's closing statement lasted over seven hours. It is seen as a landmark in the Civil Rights movement and was included in the book Speeches That Changed the World. The presiding judge was Justice Frank Murphy. He later became the Governor of Michigan and an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.
The book covers the trials in detail. Every aspect of them - the picking of the juries, the prosecutor, the witnesses, i.e. the history of all involved. The book is thorough, well researched and unbiased. You are given not half but all details of relevance. Ossian's youth, marriage and struggles to become a doctor are meticulously detailed; to understand his actions you need to understand his personality. I do not think any of the details provided were extraneous; however it is important to know before you pick the book up that the book is detailed and is not for those who want merely a quick summary.
The individuals’ lives after the trial are summarized. What happened later was very interesting.
The audiobook is narrated by Lizan Mitchell. She gives an absolutely perfect presentation. It can be hard to listen to trials details and court proceedings in an audiobook. There are so many individuals to follow. The book gives just enough repetition, allowing the listener to easily keep track of all involved. There are memorable quotes from the proceedings; they are moving told.
This book is excellently executed. I cannot give it anything but four stars, but if you want merely a quick summary, then I would not recommend it. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I have seen it stated that this book was for young adults. It is not a simplified version. History is not "cleaned-up" for the ears of the young. The history is clearly stated, interestingly told and unbiased. That which is not definitively known is stated as such. Rumors are presented only for what they are. I would not classify this as a young adult book; it is suitable for young adults and adults equally well. I never felt I was being talked down to.
Believe it or not, there is humor, although the siege is also depicted in all its ghastliness.
The author reads his own audiobook. For me he uses too much dramatization, but I believe this will be appreciated by others. He is easy to follow and that is the most important in my view. His pronunciation of Russian terms flow easily.
Bits of the Seventh Symphony, aka the Leningrad Symphony, are played in the audiobook. It is I important to “hear with your ears” exactly what is being explained with words. For this reason I would recommend the audiobook over the printed book.
I definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in Shostakovich, Stalin, the Russian Revolution, the Leningrad Siege and the importance/role/value of music.
Kate Grenville is one of Australia's best-known authors, most well known for her novel The Secret River. Enjoying biographies, I thought I would giveKate Grenville is one of Australia's best-known authors, most well known for her novel The Secret River. Enjoying biographies, I thought I would give this a try. It was just OK for me, so two stars. I will explain why.
Kate writes about her mother, Nance (1912-2006). Actually the book only covers her first 40 years, up to the birth of her last child, the author. The second half of her life is only rapidly summarized in an epilogue, and it is worthy to note that important life changing events occur in these latter years. You get only half of the story. The book draws Nance's youth, her parents’ relationship and her own difficult marriage. You view Australian history through the life of one woman. For me, sseing the Depression and WW2 in Australia was the most interesting part of the whole book. The main focus is however Nance’s personal struggle to become a pharmacist.
Australia in 1912 was only one of the two nations in the world, New Zealand being the other, where women could vote! And yet, the central theme is to show how difficult it was for women to succeed in what remained a "man's world". Once her education was completed, her struggle continues. Jobs were not available to women, pay was discriminatingly low and childcare non-existent.
We are told the events in a matter of fact manner. Kate relates the events of her mother’s life using a third person narrative. She did that and that and that. Emotion is lacking. The reader observes more than experiences. Very little dialog. And whose thoughts are we getting? Nance’s or Kate’s view of her mother? Often Kate can only guess at what her mother was feeling and / or thinking. What surprised me was that my own experiences with discriminatory job opportunities and pay didn’t make me empathize more with Nance. I should care more, and yet I don’t. The telling is cold. It is strange that Kate doesn’t refer to her mother as Mom. She is simply Nance, and Nance speaks of her parents by their given names too. That the words mom and dad are rarely used creates a distance, an aloofness that is disturbing.
The author narrates the audiobook. It is a bit too fast. The Australian dialect is not terribly pronounced, but words are used which only an Australian will understand. These words are never explained.
No, I neither got a complete biography nor insight into Nance’s inner most thoughts. Her daughter, if anyone, ought to have been able to give me that. Quite simply, the book left me unmoved. ...more
ETA: So I woke up at 4 AM irritated b/c I had left stuff out of my review. I should have given examples of the humor. One chapter is entitled somethinETA: So I woke up at 4 AM irritated b/c I had left stuff out of my review. I should have given examples of the humor. One chapter is entitled something like, 'Don't Try To Commit Suicide in a Tight Skirt". What else? Svetlana wanted to be cremated after her death. She told her daughter, Olga, to spread her ashes over a river in Wisconsin. Then she got thinking ....her daughter would be accused of polluting the river because they were the ashes of Stalin's daughter! Her daughter spread then over the Pacific.
This book is fantastic!
It is well written, based on solid research, engaging and will leave you rooting for Svetlana. Svetlana who? Svetlana Iosifovna Alliluyeva (1926-2011). Stalin's only daughter, or Lana Peters, the name by which she preferred to be called. The book covers her entire life.
What do I mean by well written? We are presented with both detailed and sometimes contradictory information. When divergent explanations are possible the reader is given adequate information to draw their own conclusion. Many, many quotes are provided, both about Svetlana and from the mouth of Svetlana. Great lines, wise lines, funny lines. There certainly is humor in this book that could have been so dark. Historical events related to her life are those that are presented; there is a perfect balance of personal and historical facts.
The information presented is thorough and detailed, but never dry. Svetlana's life story is utterly fascinating. What she lived through is exciting and will have you on the edge of your seat - not once, not twice, but many times. The book plunges you immediately into her defection in 1967 from the U.S.S.R. Then it backtracks. You must have heard about Frank Lloyd Wright's wives and about Taliesin. Well, Svetlana's fourth husband was Wes Peters, the son of Frank Lloyd Wright's last wife (Olgivanna) and Frank Lloyd Wright's stepson! Anybody who has read The Women by T.C. Boyle will certainly want to read this too. If you have read that you will know of the shenanigans of these architects, of these communal artisans. Their behavior, well, let’s leave it at this, Svetlana fit right in. Sort of, in some ways, until…...
You know what kind of a father she had. Did you know that her mother died when she was six and a half? That her father killed, imprisoned and utterly destroyed many of their own family? That when she defected to the U.S. she left behind two children? There is more you don’t know.
Are you interested in love stories? Svetlana spent her life searching for love.
The reason why I loved this book, beyond the fact that it is well executed, is that Svetlana was such an amazing person.....but human. The author shows you who she was in her soul, intimately and honestly, by her deeds, by her humor, by her anger, by her willingness to say she was sorry, by her humility. She was head-strong. She was volatile and emotional. She had a temper! She was very intelligent. I really admire her. What spunk. What courage. You have to read this book to meet this woman.
Here is one of those few exceptional non-fiction books that is simple to read because it is so engaging, because you have to know what happens. Why? Because you come to care.
This book shows you who Svetlana was in her heart, in her head. I admire her because she never gave up, even though she had such a hard life. You root for her, regardless of her foolish mistakes. Everybody thinks she was wealthy – just forget that! So many lies have been woven around her. You have to read this book to get to the truth.
One word about the audiobook narration by Karen Cass. I wanted to know and remember every detail. I wanted to forget nothing, and for that I need a very slow narration. While Cass does a very good job, I personally wish it had been a bit slower. I don't think others are quite as neurotic about speed as I am.
Now I want to read all the books written by Svetlana Alliluyeva. Unfortunately only some of the titles are listed here at GR. ...more
Biography of a destroyed Jewish town - Trochenbrod (1812-1942). What is remarkable about the town is that almost all its inhabitants were Jews. The toBiography of a destroyed Jewish town - Trochenbrod (1812-1942). What is remarkable about the town is that almost all its inhabitants were Jews. The town was located in what is today Western Ukraine. The author is the son of one who grew up there. It was totally wiped out in 1942 by the Nazis.
I recommend this book. That there existed such a town is amazing! What the book gives you is a record of its history, covering the 130 years of its existence. It explains how the policies, laws and decrees of Catherine the Great and Czars Alexander I and Nicholas I created the prerequisites for the village to come into being. What happened during the First World War, the inter-war period and its total annihilation by the Nazis is covered. How is this done? In two ways. The author summarizes what he has learned through research and through correspondence and interviews with Trochenbrod descendants. They live today all over the world, many in the US, Argentina, Brazil, Israel, Poland and the Ukraine. Much of what is summarized by the author is also repeated in the descendants’ personal firsthand accounts. You do get quite a bit of repetition, but I preferred the simple clear stories told by people who had lived there. Through their tales you get a real feel for the place. Small details make all the difference. One woman speaks of her eighth year birthday presents – a bobby pin, a ribbon, a rubber band – which to her were just wonderful gems! Some of the tales are horrific – experiences of partisans, starving, hiding in the forest. The post mistress was a gentile and her son played with the Jewish children of the village. It is they who were his friends. His Christmas tree, Jewish weddings, Sabbath rituals, school lessons – they are all here. These stories really add to the depth of the facts related. Some are told only in the appendix at the book’s end – don’t miss that! I preferred the descendants’ firsthand accounts over the author’s lines. You hear also what has happened to these people after leaving.
I listened to the audiobook narrated by Marc Cashman. The narration is clear but sometimes too fast. There are details and dates I had to glue into my head and I need time to absorb these facts! I had to rewind the audiobbok quite often.
I would recommend reading this book rather than listening to it, not just because the narration is at times too fast, but also because the paper book has pictures and a glossary of Yiddish terms. The Yiddish words are explained each time a new one is used, but the second and third time they are not…….and I sometimes forgot! I would have liked to look at the glossary. I assume the book has maps. It is hard to find the small towns and railroad lines described in the book on internet. It is hard to even guess at the spellings of some of the names.
The audiobook isn’t a waste though; the personal firsthand accounts are simple to follow. Maybe that is why I liked them so much? For me they made this a four star book rather than a three star book. Through these stories I got to meet blood and flesh people. I know the town through these people and what they had to tell me.
One more thing, Trochenbrod also goes by the names Sofievk or Zofiówka. ...more
OK, now that this is done I am happy I read it. I knew practically nothing about Simón Bolivar (1783-1830). Who's he???? He is the Venezuelan who freeOK, now that this is done I am happy I read it. I knew practically nothing about Simón Bolivar (1783-1830). Who's he???? He is the Venezuelan who freed South America from Spanish rule! The battle for independence began in Venezuela in 1810, spread to Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru. Final independence wasn't achieved until 14 years later. (Chile and Argentina were freed from Spanish rule by others, and that is not covered in this book.)
The book follows the "liberator" from birth to death. He had such hopes, such high ideals - freedom and equality of all races. The tyranny of Spain was thrown off but bringing peace to a land with such a mix of religion and race lead in fact to chaos and civil war. How does it end for Bolivar himself? It ends in poverty, illness and exile. Both Bolivar's achievements and faults are presented. The research is thorough. His childhood, education and military campaigns are followed step by step by step. Civil wars, betrayals, friendships and mistresses. Wait till you meet his lover Manuela Sáenz! She is something else. It is all here. His death is covered too. I would say the reader is if anything given too much rather than too little.
The epilog is excessively long-winded.
I had trouble with the audiobook narration by David Crommett. He spoke the Spanish names of people and cities and rivers and areas so darn quickly that I could not even jot them down! There are lots of names! A person who is acquainted with Spanish will love it, but I had difficulty. So I learned what I could learn. If you cannot write down the name of a town how do you find it in an atlas or on internet? Also, he emphasized the text's lines, which is not the way I like audiobooks read. Suspense, fear and glory are magnified. I kept thinking, "Please, just calm down!"
I think if you know Spanish and if you are already acquainted with Bolivar and South American history, you will not find this as difficult a read as I did. It is a good book, but the more you know before starting it the more you will appreciate it. Heck, you have to start somewhere.
50% completed: Well, I am chugging through this thing. There have been moments I wanted to dump it. What makes it so very hard is that the names and places are pronounced very quickly with a Spanish accent. There are lots of names and places that I do not recognize. Given the correct but fast narration by one fluent in Spanish, I am having trouble. I am learning what I can. AND the narrator sort of sings the text, which drives me nuts, particularly when describing war atrocities. Phew, I really do not enjoy reading about such. Gruesome details, but this is what happened. ...more