Hi everyone. Today I share with you my second review of the week. This one is by an author I came across via Sally Cronin’s Cafe and Bookstore. I’ve haven’t read anything from this writer before, and being a fan of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, I had to give this book a go. I’ll let my review say the rest >>>
About the Book:
Based on the actual events on the Eastern Front of World War II, this short story is a rare account of a Soviet penal company, told from a perspective of a real person, the military prosecutor, Jakov Antonovich Krivenkov, and a fictional character, an ordinary Russian woman, Matryona, both caught in the horror of an impossible situation.
427,910 Soviet men shed their blood in defending their motherland in penal military units. They were to stop the enemy regardless of cost. Eighty percent of them did not survive. This is the story of thirteen of them.
This is a short read at about 40 pages. But for all of its small size, it packs a lot in.
The story is told from two different points of view: the main character is based on a real person–the author’s grandfather–and the second character is a fictional woman in her late thirties, who is the only remaining person in an abandoned village as the fighting front approaches.
The content and style put me in mind of many of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s books. However, many errors let the read down. We have things like ‘waived’ instead of ‘waved’, ‘caving’ instead of ‘cawing’, ‘glowed’ instead of ‘glowered’, ‘in mass’ instead of ‘en mass’, and ‘down’ instead of ‘dawn’, etc. Also, some sentence structures read strangely … for example: ‘And what for would she need it?’ instead of ‘for what’, and ‘What kind of life she had?’ instead of ‘What kind of life did she have/ (or) had she had?’, etc.
The errors were numerous–I had 18 notations for so few pages, and I don’t start notating until something has occurred a few times. All of which brings my rating down by a star.
With that said, I connected to the main character, but not so much with the village woman. The story is a familiar and brutal one, where prisoners and convicts are sent to the front to fight as a ‘penal troop’, and such men were expected to fight to the death to defend every last inch of ‘the motherland’.
The author portrayed well the complexities of war, and showed that both sides are simply human–often young men barely out of boyhood–rather than outright monsters. Of course, some were monsters, on every side of the war, but there were plenty of good people caught up in a bad situation.
The story itself (minus errors) merits 4 out of 5 stars. I enjoyed this book, and overall it gets a solid 3 stars from me, which means it was good (see below).
NOTE ON RATINGS: I consider a 3-star rating a positive review. Picky about which books I give 5 stars to, I reserve this highest rating for the stories I find stunning and which moved me.
5 STARS: IT WAS AMAZING! I COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN! — Highly Recommended.
4 STARS: I WOULD PULL AN ALL-NIGHTER — Go read this book.
3 STARS: IT WAS GOOD! — An okay read. Didn’t love it. Didn’t hate it.
2 STARS: I MAY HAVE LIKED A FEW THINGS —Lacking in some areas: writing, characterisation, and/or problematic plot lines.
1 STAR: NOT MY CUP OF TEA —Lots of issues with this book.