jill's Reviews > Trotsky: Downfall Of A Revolutionary

Trotsky by Bertrand M. Patenaude
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's review
Dec 25, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: biography, history
Read in March, 2010

Stylistically, I didn't love this book. It shifted back and forth between Trotsky's final months in Mexico and the rest of his life, in a way that I found to be confusing and a little haphazard. I think it was an attempt to avoid the dry "thesis" trap that a lot of books written by historians fall into, but it didn't work for me. That said, Patenaude excels in the things I love about history books -- he chooses fantastic ancedotes and quotations to highlight, and his endnotes are extensive.

I haven't read much about Trotsky, but this portrayal seemed even-handed and convincing. Trotsky's successes and failures seem to stem from the same personality traits, and his final years are both tragic and compelling.

My interest in Trotsky is mostly filial, and my uncle gave me this book for Christmas because he only found out at my dad's memorial service that my father was a fan of Trotsky's. It's hard not to read this account through the lens of my father -- I wonder what he would have thought of this protrayal, and I wonder what it was about Trotsky that captured his attention (his imagination? his intellect?) Trotsky, in this telling at least, was a difficult personality who frustrated and alienated a lot of even his close relationships; this frustration echoes, emotionally if not in the details, a lot of what I feel about my father. I need a break from the Russian revolution at the moment, but the next time I feel up to the time period, maybe I'll tackle some of Trotsky's own writings.

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