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The Unwomanly Face of War: An Oral History of Women in World War II

(Голоса утопии)

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4.52  ·  Rating details ·  20,408 ratings  ·  3,025 reviews
A long-awaited English translation of the classic oral history of women in World War II across Europe and Russia from Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich
Bringing together dozens of voices in her distinctive style, Svetlana Alexievich shares stories of women s experiences during World War II on the front lines, on the home front, and in occupied territories. The Unwoma
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Hardcover, 381 pages
Published July 25th 2017 by Random House (first published 1983)
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Start your review of The Unwomanly Face of War: An Oral History of Women in World War II
Ahmad Sharabiani
У войны не женское лицо = The Unwomanly Face of War, Svetlana Aleksievich

Svetlana Alexandrovna Alexievich (born 31 May 1948) is a Belarusian investigative journalist and non-fiction prose writer who writes in Russian. She was awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature "for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time". She is the first writer from Belarus to receive the award.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: ماه نوامبر سال 2016 میلادی

عنوان: جنگ چهره زنانه ندارد؛ نویسنده: سوتلانا ا
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Nataliya
We usually think of wars as something that men do. Boys play with toy soldiers and toy guns, and play with real things when they get older, right? But women have been fighting in wars throughout history. We just don't know their stories. We know the stories of men. The women remain in the background, mostly silent, occasionally telling the stories of the war from the accepted 'manly' perspective. Until now.
"Everything that we know about the war we were told by men. We are the prisoners of "manly
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Brina
For the first time, Nobel Prize winning author Svetlana Alexievich's award winning first book The Unwomanly Face of War is available in English. Over the course of twenty six grueling years, Alexievich interviewed female veterans of World War II. Unlike their American counterparts who played their part in the war effort at home, Soviet women gave up their lives for the Motherland and Stalin and enlisted to fight on the front lines. Yet, rather than returning home as war heroes, the women were of ...more
İntellecta
Aug 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Svetlana Alexievich also lets the victims or heroes speak here again. The emotional portrayal of many women who went to war for love of "fatherland" is impressive and frightening. Anyone who believes in sympathy with the Soviet soldiers of World War II, the horror of entering the war, and the inability of society to accept the return of women as normal women will not want to leave this book out of their hands. ...more
Barry Pierce
My specialty... My speciality is men's haircuts...
A girl comes... I don't know how to cut her hair. She has luxuriant wavy hair. The commander enters the dugout. "Give her a man's haircut."
"But she's a woman."
"No, she's a soldier. She'll be a woman again after the war."


In the West we often think of women's role in WWII as being in the factories. The Rosie the Riveter movement of helping make all the supplies for the men out on the front. However, in the Soviet Union, almost one million women enl
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Fran
May 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
World War II, the Germans are marching toward Moscow. Men and boys have answered the call to defend the Motherland. War was life...but surprisingly, teenage girls and young women signed up to go to the front. Women served as snipers, traffic controllers, medical assistants, surgeons, anti-aircraft gunners and sappers to name a few wartime jobs. They were doggedly determined to fight for Russia, often insisting on being in the front lines. Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich "...brings together a ...more
Diane S ☔
Jul 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This author tackles the personal cost of war on woman, those who served and those who were civilians during the second world war. These personal accounts, some just paragraphs, some a few pages, but all heartfelt and heartbreaking. We have read many books, fiction and non that chronicle men's experiences and after effects, but very few women. Ordinary women I should say, who were living normal lives but feeling compelled or just caught up in the tangled and long reaching call to war.

The author
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Lori
Oct 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are more stories to tell than then those of famous men.
Chrissie
This is riveting. I hated every time I had to stop to do something else. It is what I am looking for every time I pick up a book about war. Are women perhaps better at baring their souls, expressing emotions and revealing their innermost thoughts? The book seems to prove this.

EVERYBODY should read this, men and women alike.

It is an important book.

A book about war - all wars.

This is a difficult book to read because it captures emotions. It shows man at his lowest, but also love and generosity a
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Jan-Maat
This was not the Alexievich book that I was looking for, alerted by several reviews on GR I was on the lookout for Secondhand Time or maybe her book on Chernobyl. Then again beggars can't be choosers as the saying goes and this was the book of her's that the library did have (Alec Guinness was not involved in my change of mind at all), in the run up to the D-day commemorations I heard various TV presenters speaking about the liberation of Europe - I noticed myself observing that as long suspecte ...more
Itzel
Feb 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Some of us mistakenly assume that young men were the sole fighters of World War II; of course, history has taught us that some women contributed as caregivers, but we ignore that there were also countless women -snipers, tankers, sergeants- sacrificing themselves in the battleground. In this book, Svetlana Alexievich meticulously recounts the memories of these forgotten soldiers.

Alexievich relates through a series of narrations the story of World War II from the point of view of the women who f
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Bjorn
Apr 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: belarus, russia, soviet
"I want you to know that they stole victory from us."

As always with Alexievich, it's made up of individual stories, lots of little moments of history.

She who followed her husband into war because they couldn't bear to be apart, and fought at his side until he fell.

We held our wedding in a trench, right before a battle. I made myself a white dress from a German parachute.

She whose fellow male soldiers had to explain to their superiors why they needed more t-shirts, the female soldiers had stolen
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Emma
Jun 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
This is a fascinating and worthy read for two specific but interconnected reasons.

Primarily, it is the representation of women's stories, harrowing personal accounts from all types of women in varied military and civilian roles, individual experiences of killing and dying and hope and despair. It is gut wrenching and sickening; in one story a woman who had recently given birth was hiding in a swamp with others when the enemies closed in. The need to remain silent, to keep hidden, had her lower t
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Lauren
I'm hard-pressed to think of another book that left me this humbled, and also questioning the biases and blindspots in my own formal education. That's a big reason why I choose to read the way I do - to take off the lenses and blinders, break down the constructs and barriers.

It raises consciousness to read a book like this one.

Alexeivich's polyphonic approach to history has been noted and awarded many times over. These stories of Soviet women during WWII were equal parts inspirational and harrow
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Darwin8u
Jan 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
“There can't be one heart for hatred and another for love. We only have one, and I always thought about how to save my heart.”
― Svetlana Alexievich, War's Unwomanly Face

description

Amazing on several levels. Through a chorus of female voices Alexievich brings a new set of eyes to World War II. The experience of Russian women, who fought as snipers, partisans, cooks, engineers, nurses, sappers, etc., during World War II paints the war (and all war) with a humanity and an emotional palette that seldom gets u
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Rebecka
English title: War's Unwomanly Face.

This is really a book everyone should read. If not all of it (considering it is pretty long), then at least parts of it. Not only is it the Second World War from a Soviet point of view, it's from Soviet women's point of view. How many people even know that 800.000 Soviet women went to war in WW2? Of course they deserve a book, and it's one of the most interesting and definitely one of the saddest I've read in a long while.

Soviet women didn't go to war because
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Tatiana
Jun 24, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I feel like Alixievich held back, didn't ask the right questions to get the whole truth.

Considering this book was first published in 1980s, I guess it's understandable she and her censors wanted an emphasis on heroism, self-sacrifice and just the horror of what Russia had to suffer through during WWII. And, believe me, this collection of personal stories illustrates the enormity of what was endured during the war like no fiction account can. And yet, even in the later edition, published in 2000
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Nandakishore Varma
Sep 28, 2019 rated it it was ok
Abandoning this halfway through. Sad, since it started off really well, and Svetlana is a gifted writer. But from around 25% of the way through, the stories just kept getting repetitive - and I was not getting drawn into the book. I persisted up to nearly the halfway mark, but it's just the same.

Don't get me wrong - these are tremendous stories, and I take off my hat to these women for the unspeakable horrors they endured, many of them beyond the pale, yet kept their humanity intact. It is indee
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Will
Nov 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I've never understood why so many historians, both amateur and professional, are obsessed with the intricate details of military campaigns, with the macro strategies represented by the ever shifting physical front lines drawn on political maps, with the lives of the generals removed from combat. Do they want to escape from the horrors of war, the mutilated children, the burned soldiers whose flesh drips off their bones? Would they rather have it be all neat and pretty? I think they're deluding t ...more
Mikey B.
Feb 24, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned
Page 19 (my book)

I follow the traces of the inner life; I make records of the soul... What happened to human beings? What did human beings see and understand there?

This book didn’t deliver what it promises in the above – an introspective and feeling look at women at war in the Soviet Union during World War II. For the most part it is superficial – as in I was this age, I saw this, I did this job, … There are sometimes three to four characters presented every two to three pages. This does not all
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Dan
Jan 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The Unwomanly Face of War was written in 1985 by Svetlana Alexievich and translated to English in 2017. Alexievich. a Belarussian, won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2015. She is noted for her works of oral history.

This book came to my attention when I noticed it had one of the highest ratings on Goodreads. I was intrigued and checked it out of the local library.

This book is an oral history of women who fought for the Soviet Union in WWII. During Glasnost of the 1980’s, and forty years after
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Beata
Sep 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Formidable tales of women who had the misfortune to live and serve through the WW2. Ms Alexievich's voice is the one that allows the memories to survive and remains a warning for future. ...more
Ana
The pain gathered between the pages of this book cannot be done justice. There's women in there, women who saw their children, husbands, parents die; women who helped strangers not to die; women who killed other men and women. Women who, decades later, still wake up from hellish nightmares in the sound of bombings. Women who have had their periods vanish for as many years as they were soldiers. Women who couldn't explain to their children what "a father" was... And these stories, Alexievich beau ...more
Jim
I have to say I feel somewhat guilty at not rating this book a little higher out of respect for the brave women whose wartime experiences are chronicled within. Let's face it: Aleksievich poured her heart and soul into the research, travelling to over 100 cities and villages to personally interview hundreds of female WWII veterans. She was eager to get their story recorded for posterity and was careful to keep a diary to make notes on her travels and interviews.

The problem is that Russia had mo
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Marianna Neal
Apr 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I was emotionally decimated by this book. Nothing I've ever read about WWII comes close to this. Certain parts actually made me physically sick, which isn't something I've ever experienced while reading a book. And to think that a lot of these heroic women came home just to be treated with disdain, and deemed unworthy and ruined... You can't make this up, and these stories broke my heart over and over again. ...more
Katie.dorny
Sep 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a powerful collection of women’s recollections of the First World War on the front line.

This book was awe-inspiring and heartbreaking in equal measure.

There aren’t words to justify the need of respect for this publication.
Czarny Pies
Mar 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: World War II Junkies.
"War's Unwomanly Face" is a magnificent oral history about the 1,000,000 women who served in the Red Army during World II that will be more difficult for English-speaking readers who shop in the "Feminist Issues" section of the book-store to enjoy than their male counterparts who shop in the "War" section. The first reason is that one needs to have pre-conceptions about military functions (such as sniper, tank driver or sapper) in order to fully appreciate the analyses that Alexievitch makes of ...more
~Jo~
"There can't be one heart for hatred and another for love. We only have one, and I always thought about how to save my heart."

When we think of war, it is something that we often think is associated with men. Throughout history, women in fact have been fighting in wars, but unfortunately, we don't often get to hear their stories.
The journalist, Svetlana Alexievich, brings us the true and horrific accounts of women that fought in The great Patriotic war between the soviet Union, and the Nazi Germa
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Settare (on hiatus)
I felt haunted, nauseated, agonized, and heartbroken for days after finishing this book.
Alxievich's project to document all these lost voices and amplify them in this book is absolutely invaluable, and the scope and magnitude of her book are so immense.
The book speaks for itself. There's nothing useful I could write in this review except that go into this expecting a tornado of complicated, mostly gut-wrenching feelings to come with it. It's a frustrating read. It's a must-read.
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Svetlana Alexievich was born in Ivano Frankivsk, Ukraine. Her father was Belarusian and her mother Ukrainian. Alexievich grew up in Belarus, where both her parents were teachers. She studied to be a journalist at the University of Minsk and worked a teacher, journalist and editor. In Minsk she has worked at the newspaper Sel'skaja Gazeta, Alexievich's criticism of the political regimes in the Sovi ...more

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“Solo recuerdo lo que me ocurrió a mí. Recuerdo mi guerra. En la guerra hay mucha gente a tu alrededor, pero siempre estás sola, porque ante la muerte el ser humano siempre está solo. Recuerdo esa terrible soledad.” 15 likes
“Se dice que en la guerra te conviertes en mitad humano, mitad animal. Totalmente cierto... No hay otra forma de sobrevivir. Si te limitas a ser humano, no hay salvación. ¡Perderás la cabeza! En la guerra uno debe recordar algo perdido dentro de sí. Algo arcano... Algo que procede de los tiempos en que el hombre no era del todo humano...” 15 likes
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