Four Star review, originally posted here on June 4, 2014.
This book needed to be written, and I am glad that it was taken on by the capable hands of Applebaum. At the very beginning I was disappointed to see that she chose to only focus on three countries, and that Soviet satellites were excluded from the conversation altogether, but I soon saw why she chose to write it that way. This is a time period and setting that very few people, especially in the west, truly understand, and Applebaum did a fantastic job breaking it all down.
It is, however, very dense. I would not recommend it as a beach read. At times towards the middle it felt a bit redundant, and I needed to take some solid breaks and come back to it weeks later in order to reset my brain. Also, it was extremely difficult (if not impossible) to keep track of specific locations and characters (I didn’t even know which country we were in at any given point), but, frankly, that didn’t really matter. Applebaum used three countries’ experiences to exemplify what was happening to all of Eastern Europe as a whole, and so the main thing is just to understand the greater context.
Ms. Applebaum- Please focus on the Baltics next!