today I have two book reviews for you. Enjoy!
Stalin: New Biography of a Dictator by Oleg V. Khlevniuk
Can a biography of Stalin, one of the cruellest dictators the world has ever known, be both concise and exhaustive? I didn’t think so, but Klevniuk proved me wrong. In 408 pages (not that many when you consider how much longer most books on Stalin are), he creates a compelling account of the dictator’s rise to power and the ruthless way in which he wielded it. During his rule, millions of innocent people were imprisoned and killed. Many millions more died in the famines caused by his economic and societal polices. Using new documents, letters, and reports, and the account of Stalin’s last day, which offers a revealing prologue to each chapter, Khlevniuk’s shows how all this horror could occur.
Khlevniuk sets the record straight on many myths, undermined by lack of evidence, that many other biographies of Stalin promoted as truth, and paints an honest portrait of the man and dictator. Although he obviously dislikes Stalin and justly warns us about the dangers of nostalgia that are currently arising in Russia about his era, he doesn’t depict his subject as a monster. Stalin was just a man, a shrewd, manipulative, and cold man driven by paranoia and deeply held convictions that turned him into a terrorist and dictator.
Informative and engaging, the book flows easily. It’s not bogged down in unnecessary details, but provides fascinating insight into Stalin and its era. If you’d like to know more about that, but the thought of reading a long, boring history book scares you, give this one a try. You’ll greatly enjoy it, I promise.
Available at: Amazon UK and Amazon US
Our Mad Brother Villon by Kenneth Parsons
One of the reasons why I love historical fiction is that I enjoy discovering historical figures that have been forgotten by most. Like Francois Villon. A never-do-well who loved the hedonistic life and couldn’t keep on the right side of the law, he was also a poet known for his talents both by royalty, thieves, and prostitutes. His criminal career starts “innocently” enough. With a bunch of his fellow university students, he decides to steal the “Devil’s Fart”, a huge stone that serves as boundary for the property of one Madame Bruyeres, who has made it her mission to rid Paris of prostitutes, drunkards, and, so it seems to them, all fun and joy. The theft is supposed to be a joke to spite Madame Bruyeres, but soon, Villon finds himself mixing with the wrong crowd, stealing much more valuable treasures. His exploits get him more than one death sentence, but even when he tries to reform, fate seems to conspire against him, landing him in trouble again. All the while, Villon never stops composing. His clever and fun verses are scattered throughout the book.
Although I would have liked to read more descriptions of Paris in the late Middle Ages (it would have helped to better evoke the era in which Villon lived), the book is fun, engaging, and fast-paced. It’s a very nice way to spend the weekend.
Available at: Amazon
Will you read these books?
Disclaimer: this book was sent by PR for consideration. In addition, this post contains affiliate links.