Lo's Reviews > We the Living

We the Living by Ayn Rand
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Sep 20, 11

Read in September, 2011

I'm going to kind of branch out here and do a different review and talk just what I felt strongly about in this book. If you would like a brief summary, wikipedia does an excellent job.
Anyways, this book was one of the most devastatingly beautiful books I've ever read. The scene between Irina and Sascha broke my heart - it's one of the moments where, in typical Rand fashion, she weaves her characters into such real but horrendously tragic situations you just weep. I would recommend this book to some who is either (a) lacking motivation in their life (b) wants to know more from a fictional perspective what communism is like to live in (c) has had their heart broken by an ideal (d) Rand lovers.
I want to focus on the love triangle of Andrei-Kira-Leo here. What this book gets at is three types of love and the chaos that descends from them. For Andrei, it's infatuation. Oh Andrei, he's wonderful. The more the book progresses, the more you just want to remove him from the story line and rescue him from the horrors contained in this book. He's the dashing communist who falls in love with the revolutionary Kira, a woman of pure passion and ideals. He fights it, but his infatuation for this woman who encompasses everything he has ever wanted in a woman takes over and turns him into her pawn. Eventually, he breaks free, giving the ultimate sacrifice to Kira to show his "unending" (re: completely obsessive) love for her. Ultimately he (well, spoiler) loses, he takes his own life unable to bear to live without Kira. Weak.
So, Kira; Yes, our strong female lead, modelled after Rand herself. She's beautiful, talented, intelligent, and most importantly she wants to live and experience more than anything. The fight and drive of this girl is incredible and truly inspirational. What's her flaw? While posing as a hooker one night, she "meets her one" Leo. She does everything for Leo on his command. At first, things are beautiful between them - they are each other's halves. They don't do things based on other's opinions, they act according to their passion (which is primarily for each other). Kira loves Leo, even after his transformation (going to Crimea), where Leo changes drastically. Although carrying on a passionate affair with Andrei, she is loyal (I know, it's a paradox) to Leo always and that is the one ember that keeps her going, this all encompassing love. Even when Leo breaks her heart, she takes it (and takes it out on other people) and continues to passionately love him. Really weak. Kira, starting out promising, ends up being the most disappointing female Rand character yet. Her strength < her idealistic obsession with Leo. Ugh.
And Leo. He starts out wonderful, as I said, Kira's other half. However, he gives up on everything at one point. He may have loved Kira at one point, but he never loves her above himself. I think the ending here with Leo was a little farfetched, but essentially, Leo is an entirely selfish being. I give Kira this, the point Rand is trying to make is that without communism, Leo would have been the man for Kira, the one she first met. However, after he loses all hope, he becomes an alcoholic and mentally abusive towards Kira (especially in his frustration over her being the breadwinner). Leo becomes a character towards the end that you shake your head at and wonder how someone could be so ungrateful and so miserable.
If only Kira had gone abroad with Andrei to live happily forever. But that isn't the way Rand wanted it; she wanted to show two things. One, obviously, communism is evil (duh, it's a Rand book) and (2) blinding love will destroy who you are. I think she tries to redeem Kira in the end there, but Kira's failure to pursue the life of her dreams is a total failure in my mind, and she sacrificed all her opportunities for a glimmer of the Leo she first new. That is not solid advice to offer the younger generations Miss Rand, but at least in my mind, she conveys this solidarity in true love (Irina and Sascha) vs the destructive love (Andrei, Kira).
Read if you get a chance; The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged have better defined characters, yet as Rand's first novel, We the Living leaves its mark on the reader.
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