During Stalin’s reign of terror, everyday people were afraid. They were afraid their past would come back to haunt them, and they were afraid to say what they really thought. When they did speak, they did so in whispers, because the walls had ears. In this book, Orlando Figes spent years researching the personal testimony of people who lived through the Stalin era, and sought to shed some light on how people lived in a time when millions were imprisoned on false testimony and self-preservation.
The idea of the book was sound, but I had some real difficulties reading it. First, Figes sought to compartmentalize the book with different aspect of Soviet life. Items like a child’s perception, the various parties, military life, prison, family life, became snippets of stories of what seemed like hundreds of people. This was a large book, and there were so many people mentioned, it made it hard to keep track of who was who. Eventually I stopped trying.
It was interesting that I read another non-fiction book that featured personal stories during World War II at the same time. In that book, the author focused more on the people (and kept them to a handful). What came out was a highly readable work of non-fiction that also illuminated their lives during a difficult time period. I really wish Figes had done that. It would have made for a more engrossing story.
3 stars (out of 5)
Amazon Book Preview of The Whisperers