I think this is a fabulous book of non-fiction. It is clear, interesting from start to finish and the amount of detail is perfect. It is not dry, notI think this is a fabulous book of non-fiction. It is clear, interesting from start to finish and the amount of detail is perfect. It is not dry, not ever.
It follows the fall of the totalitarian regimes in the six countries of the Warsaw Pact: Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania. You come to understand why the USSR fell apart. It follows the significant role played by leaders and dissidents in these six nations and Mikhail Gorbachev, Ronald Regan, George H. W. Bush and Pope John Paul II. The events in each of these countries and their respective leaders are covered in detail. Soviet involvement in Afghanistan is also discussed because the disastrous military campaign there partially explains Soviet abandonment of the satellite countries.
I am not knowledgeable enough to check the accuracy of every detail; I read the book to learn. Nevertheless, I do not doubt the author's information - he is an English journalist writing for the London Evening Standard and he witnessed much first hand.
In the introduction the author states that he uses the terms Eastern and Central Europe interchangeably, as well as Soviet Union, Russia and the USSR. It would have been better had he simply stated which counties he classified as Eastern European and which Central European. In addition he uses the words socialism and communism interchangeable. This is sloppy, and in some lines the word choice is quite simply wrong. Socialism and communism cannot be used interchangeably; they are not the same thing! This frequently bothered me.
I wish the book had covered the evolution of events in the Baltic States which also threw off Soviet tyranny. The author states that Yugoslavia is omitted because it deserves a book of its own.
I listened to the audiobook narrated by Paul Hecht. Some of the Eastern European names are hard to catch, but most often I could still find these names with the help of Wiki. The narration is excellent. The reading is slow and clear. You need that in a book of non-fiction where there is so much to learn.
I really, really, really liked this book. I found it fascinating and clear. I just wish I could glue everything in my head so it never disappears. When you read a book that is this good, you don't want to forget any small detail.
(Please read what I have written below. You will find there additional important information.)
About 1/3 through the book:
I have listened to about 1/3 and am totally enjoying it. Absolutely fascinating. It starts in in the 1970s so you watch the disintegration of the Empire, not just the final fall. It is one of those books of non-fiction that IS NOT DRY. When a number is given it is compared with another so you understand its significance. You laugh at what you are being told; the author puts it so amusingly. For example, when he talks about the Stasi and the GDR he speaks of a spy who marries for the sole purpose of spying on the woman more efficiently! Everything had to be recorded on paper because there were so many power cuts. He talks of mountains of information and how stupid much was - such as the exact conversation of a guy buying a hot dog. "No the mustard isn't necessary, just the bread." The book is interesting and easy to read and read and read. Just the right amount of information to pique your interest. Not too much so it gets tedious.
I hadn't realized to what extent the dissension in Poland in the 80s was hinged upon the papal choice of Pope John Paul II.
All readers will recognize name after name after name. You learn about Lech Wałęsa, Solidarity (The Polish Trade Union), Václav Havel, Erich Honecker, Erich Mielke (German secret police official, head of Stasi), Leonid Brezhnev, Andrei Gromyko and of course Mikhail Gorbachev. And I have only read a third of the book! ...more
I liked this book a lot, but I felt sections were a bit unclear. The chapters of the book could have been used to give clarity, for example to distingI liked this book a lot, but I felt sections were a bit unclear. The chapters of the book could have been used to give clarity, for example to distinguish between Russian, British and French nursing methods.
You learn about the Crimean War, and I haven't read much about this war so that in itself made it very interesting. The battles are covered, but there is only a little about the cause of the war. The central theme is the role women played - Florence Nightingale, the colored Jamaican nurse Mary Seacole and others. Not only British nurses but also French and Russian counterparts are discussed. A thorough description of the conditions that prevailed during the war is also given. The conditions were appalling - high fatalities, disease (particularly cholera and typhoid) and generally medical, logistical and tactical mismanagement. The book is well researched. There are many direct quotes; you get the feel and the language of Victorian times and also Queen Victoria's role in the war. This is the last war where women were allowed to accompany the men to the front. This is the first war covered by the press, relying on modern technologies, the telegraph, railways and explosive naval shells. This is the first war women were officially organized as nurses, although French nuns, the Sisters of Charity, had in times past followed their men into war, giving them succor and aid. In fact this was an embarrassing point to the British.
Not only were the war conditions appalling but that the war became a tourist attraction was for me even more appalling. I had a hard time comprehending why women even contemplated following their men into war! Perhaps to care for them, given that medical aid was so lacking?!
This book is an eye-opener about the role Florence Nightingale actually played. She was based at the British hospital in Sutari, which is in Turkey, not the Crimea. Her primary task was much more organizational than actually caring for the sick or wounded. She vehemently opposed all and any interference. She didn't work well with the other women, neither with Mary Seacole nor the nuns. Why has so little acclaim been given to the other nurses who functioned independent from Nightingale? Why is it that Nightingale alone has received recognition and acclaim? Militarily the French and the English fought together against the Russians, but in caring for the sick and wounded there was a complete schism. I sense an underlying discord between Catholicism and Protestantism that is not openly discussed, and I wish this had been more clearly analyzed. Nightingale avoided recruiting nurses of the Catholic faith and she did not want them proselytizing. Does religion explain why so little has been said of the other nurses and why so little recognition has been given them?
The narration by Eunice Roberts is clear and fits the Victorian language of the numerous quotes. ...more
Where to start? How to explain why I like it so very much?
I like Ayn Rand's style of writing. Her language is strong, clear and not in the least subtlWhere to start? How to explain why I like it so very much?
I like Ayn Rand's style of writing. Her language is strong, clear and not in the least subtle. I think I could recognize it in the future. The reader observes what the characters do. Very little introspection. The plot fits the language and the behavior of the characters. Strong, determined people - no not people, just one character, but she is the central character. Kira is her name. This book is autobiographical, but only in the sense that it speaks of the author's life philosophy. The characters and the plot are all fictional. How Kira thinks is how Ayn Rand thinks....and if that doesn't appeal to you, well then the whole novel may not appeal to you. Do strong, determined people appeal to you?
This is a book that describes the Bolshevik era. It is set in Petrograd / St. Petersburg / Leningrad, predominantly the 1920s. It is a book about how Bolshevism destroyed people. It is also a love story.
The ending! It ends perfectly. Ayn Rand's writing, her description of places and events is so sharp and clear. The ending dazzles. You see it and you feel it and it moves you. The events fit the language. You want to know what will happen. You say, "Get to the end! Tell me! Tell me!" But at the same time you know you have to wait because Kira's path takes time too. That is what I mean when I say the words reflect the events.
Is the book realistic? Yes, I think so.
Mary Woods narrates the audiobook. She changes the speed with which she reads the story. Dialogs are read slowly so you can listen and think about what each is saying. Past events are read in a speedy blur. I have never run into such a technique before, but it is effective. I came to recognize the different characters by the different tones used. ...more
This is a difficult read - difficult because although it is fiction it speaks the truth and without exaggeration. The theme here is the Second World WThis is a difficult read - difficult because although it is fiction it speaks the truth and without exaggeration. The theme here is the Second World War seen from the perspective of Germans, ordinary Germans. There are an abundance of books relating the events from the winner's point of view, less from the German point of view, and a book such as this is needed.
I respect an author that draws a fictional story that is accurate, that is realistic, that is credible, and doesn't succumb to the pull of sweetening the ending. I found not one detail off. This book focuses on a German marriage contract practice of which I knew nothing about. German soldiers were given 'honeymoon' leave when they married and the woman a pension if her husband should he die on the front. These marriages were arranged through 'marriage bureaus’ between couples who had never met. You chose your spouse from a photo and an elementary description. You chose from a book. The act was finalized without the couple having ever set eyes on each other. Peter, in this story, got a ten day leave from the Russian front. Katharina got that promise of a pension and a way out from her parents' control. But did she? The book switches between Peter's infantry platoon fighting along the Russian front in Poltava and then in Stalingrad and Katharina's experiences at home in Berlin. The time setting is the summer of 1941 through the early fifties.
The war scenes follow eight people, of whom the reader comes to know well. You come to understand their weaknesses and strengths. This is much better than following a large group of characters. The same is true of Katharina - you follow her, her family and the closest acquaintances. Each one becomes a person that you may not like, but still understand who they are and why.
The audiobook is narrated by Suzanne Toren. She is one of my favorite narrators. She speaks slowly and clearly and with a strong voice, but she does not use a different intonation for different male characters. This is not necessary.
I definitely recommend this book. It is fiction, but it tells a real story! ...more
I cannot cope with short stories, even fabulous ones. Don't do as I did and read them all in a row.
The twelve stories that are said to be in this colI cannot cope with short stories, even fabulous ones. Don't do as I did and read them all in a row.
The twelve stories that are said to be in this collection are the following: 1. A Story Without a Title 2. Art 3. The Student 4. Ivan Matveyitch 5. The June Premier 6. A Slander 7. The Beggar 8. A Malefactor 9. Minds in Ferment 10. The Looking Glass 11. Old Age 12. On Trial
Please note the fifth story is NOT included!
William Coon narrates all of the twelve eleven stories. Each story is followed with a pause and a little music. This is very good since you need time to think about the story just completed and start afresh with the next one. STILL, do NOT read one after the other!
OK, I love how Chekhov writes. With just a few descriptive words he manages to draw distinct characters. You cannot mistake what makes each one tick. You are given their attire, how they move and how they think.... or don't think. Each story has a message. Many of the stories are filled with humor. Some with irony. Some of the stories I did not know what was being said; I hadn't a clue.
I am just going to tell you just about the first story, but only in general terms. It was my absolute favorite. I wish all had been this good, but they weren't. I loved it because it has humor. I mean it is really, really funny. (view spoiler)[A hunter comes to a monastery and exclaims that the monks are just sitting on their butts doing nothing about the problems in the cities around them. He tells them to get off their butts, to go out into the world and DO something about all the problems out there! (hide spoiler)] I loved it because it allows each reader to interpret the facts as they wish. I believe a religious person, which I am not, can equally well draw completely different conclusions than those I have drawn...and yet we can both love it. It has irony. And at the end you can sit and talk about how one can interpret the "loose" ending. This is why people of different beliefs can all love it!
One more thing - Chekhov draw a picture of the Russian people, the common people, that will stick with you forever. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
So this was a Tolstoy...... Hmph, the story doesn't say much except to reiterate how difficult and painful death can be, both physically and emotionalSo this was a Tolstoy...... Hmph, the story doesn't say much except to reiterate how difficult and painful death can be, both physically and emotionally. The story is way too short to establish empathy for Ivan Ilyich! He was a judge. A game of bridge was his favorite amusement. All his life he conformed to proper decorum, becoming with age aloof and irascible. What was the point of life - both he and the readers may ask?! Talk about a depressing book!!!!
The narration by Walter Zimmerman was certainly not bad, but it didn't add anything....more
Oh, I do like how Turgenev writes. He gets to the core of characters. You understand who they are, why each one acts as they do. He also has great abiOh, I do like how Turgenev writes. He gets to the core of characters. You understand who they are, why each one acts as they do. He also has great ability to draw a place so it comes alive and you see it , feel it and almost smell it. Like a park at night....... and what Vladimir discovered that night!
Back track: this is about a sixteen year-old's first love. (Do you recall yours?!) He falls head over heels for a self-centered, manipulative, pretty girl. She knows she is pretty and she has her own agenda. He is not the only one who is charmed by her wiles. In this very short novella you get to know several people and come to understand their choices. Each character has a unique personality. That is what I liked best! Still, I would have given it more stars if it had been longer. I have a definite preference for long books. You will love this if you happen to prefer short books.
The audiobook's narration by David Troughton was excellent. You have no trouble with the Russian names. You know who is who, and I didn't even have to make a list to keep track of them.
On completion of this thick book you know everything that happened in Chekhov's life. It is thorough. It is detailed. His life is told through lettersOn completion of this thick book you know everything that happened in Chekhov's life. It is thorough. It is detailed. His life is told through letters and diary entries written by Chekhov himself and his friends, acquaintances, work associates, siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, spouses.... There exist numerous letters and diary entries. This is how people communicated at the end of the 1800s. Chekhov was born in 1860 and died in 1904 of TB. Much of these entries read as today's telephone conversations. Sometimes hearing the grumbles and mundane thoughts of what one ate for breakfast and how much the train ticket to Moscow cost and how cold it was and how a new maid had been employed and how the last one got pregnant and had to leave and how the crane died in the kitchen and ...... You get details, LOTS of details. These details give the reader a real understanding of life in Moscow and St. Petersburg and the Ukraine too. He was constantly traveling between these cities or to his country house. There he became a farmer. Later he bought a house in the Crimea.
These letters and diary entries and the resulting events are presented in chronological order. Each chapter often covers only two months! You hear what he does just about every day of those two months. Rarely are months skimmed, except maybe the beginning years of his life. They are covered but not in such detail. You learn exactly when each of his stories and plays were written. How he took one play and altered it to become another. You learn how what happened in his life is retold in these stories and plays. I have the feeling not one is missed.
But there is little analysis. What Chekhov wanted to say is described by what he did and what happened. The whys are left up to the reader to figure out from Chekhov’s actions. Chekhov himself did not did not give many explanations. History is mentioned briefly - Czar Alexander II, Czar Alexander III died, Nicholas the II came to power. Literature was censored and his too, but there is no discussion of why or how the government used censorship. There is no discussion of historical events. This is not a book of history but you do get a good look at Russian life.
Health or rather illness is a huge part of the book. So many died. This is not a "fun" read. By the time Chekhov reached some success he was sick, very sick. Watching how his TB, the “White Plague”, as it was then called, gets worse and worse is not easy reading. And he saw his friends die of the very illness he was suffering from. How does that feel? I must have gotten emotionally attached to him because his dearth at the end was horrible.
Chekhov first became a doctor, then only later a writer....and he writes about what he saw and experienced, i.e. Russian life. At the end he was supporting both emotionally and economically his whole family and so many others too. He was no angel. Choose one woman; now that was not his style. He did finally get married, but what happened then?! And he had things to do - doctoring or writing or farming - and as he saw it that came first! In his defense, people depended on him. You will learn about how he traveled to Sakhalin to document prisoners and their existence in Siberia. To write about this he had to know about it. He fought cholera, he set up schools, he…... He was a very busy and a very sick man. His life is extremely interesting.
One word about the narration by Fred Williams. He reads it slowly and steadily. The French pronunciation is laughable, but there isn't much French. It bugged me that dates are read in the following fashion: May 2, 1891 is read as "May two, rather than "May second".. Remember there are tons of dates! June 6-8 is read "June six slash eight", no not dash! This is rather petty of me......
I am very glad I read this book. It is not JUST about his books! I have one misgiving. I should have stopped and read each story and play as it is mentioned in the book. Had I done that I think perhaps I would have given the book more stars. I kick myself in that I didn't think of doing this until the very end. I also believe the more you know about Chekhov before you read this book the more you will appreciate it. If you are writing a paper for school, here is the book. I was just reading for fun, and honestly it did get a bit tedious at times. ...more
I liked this book for one reason. Dostoyevsky understands people. This understanding is revealed in the book's lines, not in the plot. Neither can I sI liked this book for one reason. Dostoyevsky understands people. This understanding is revealed in the book's lines, not in the plot. Neither can I say I appreciated how he tied together the different elements of the story. The central character is an unnamed anti-hero. The book starts with chapters expressing the anti-hero's thoughts. They are ugly but true expressions of how people behave and what motivates us. The next part details the events that led up to why he now is where he is and why he has these sentiments. The thoughts are all negative. The anti-hero is psychologically unbalanced. He has an extreme inferiority complex. For me it is a weakness that these truthful observations are spoken by a person who is so very unbalanced. By presenting these thought in this manner the truths proclaimed are weakened. In addition, they are exaggerated. People are not just stupid, vengeful, dishonest creatures seeking aggrandizement. We are this way sometimes, but not always, as the story so portrays us.
But there are such wise statements made in the book's lines, about all sorts of human behavior and emotions. All readers will recognize their own ridiculous behavior in the irrational behavior of the anti-hero. Should I give just one example of a silly behavior I recognize in myself, an episode that plays out exactly as what I myself have done? There is an episode where the anti-hero decides he will NOT move out of the way of another man. He will NOT do it. Well, I once acted similarly. I was sick and tired of always getting out of the way of teenagers who totally occupied the sidewalk when they left or started school. Their number gave them strength. They never said excuse me or diverted their path in the slightest. They hogged the whole sidewalk. I walked there every day at that time. The pattern repeated itself every day. I determined I would not change my direction. I would stand there immovable; they could move out of my way for once! This is exactly what the anti-hero does. I recognized in his silly behavior my own ridiculousness.
Simon Vance does an excellent narration of the audiobook. He speaks quickly, and yet as he spoke every word melted into my head and I comprehended it.
Read this book for the lines therein. Dostoyevsky so well understands people.