Gorbachev's recent acknowledgment of Stalin's inhumane policies barely hints at the grand-scale devastation of Soviet life suffered during the first half of this century. A gripping eye-witness account of that period, this book is both a unique chronicle of one of the 20th century's most brutal regimes and the moving personal testament of a remarkable woman.
Suzanne Rosenberg's narrative begins in 1921, when she and her mother--a Sorbonne-educated Bolshevik--lived together in one room of a communal Karkav flat. In part to escape famine and in part to promote Communism, her family journeyed to Canada, where, at 15, she lectured electrical workers on the evils of capitalism. After returning to the Soviet Union in 1931, Rosenberg and her family saw countless friends and acquaintances fall victim to Stalin's increasingly repressive policies. Recalling how she began to avoid political conversations, any contacts with foreigners, and even the slightest comments on the state of the government, the author chillingly describes the wave of terror that spilled over the country. The years 1937 and '38, she writes, "struck out with enormous force, the blows rendered so suddenly that shock, bewilderment, and confusion gave way to naked, animal fear." Eventually--after enduring the hardships and deprivations of World War II--Rosenberg's husband and then Rosenberg herself were arrested. Sentenced to a labor camp, she joined the ranks of prisoners struggling to survive in the Gulag. She remained in the camp for three years, receiving amnesty only after Stalin's death. Covering the entire period from 1921 to 1980, when Rosenberg re-emigrated to Canada permanently, A Soviet Odyssey is not only a riveting account of Stalinist terror; it captures as well the texture of Soviet life from a woman's perspective. It ranges over everything from the world of the intelligentsia to the role of women in the workplace to the particular experiences of women in the Gulag. Biography lovers, Soviet watchers, and anyone interested in the often horrifying course of modern history will find this book compelling reading.
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