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The Sunday Times best seller and now a major Radio 4 drama.
In April 1942, Hitler and Mussolini plan the huge offensive on the Eastern Front that will culminate in the greatest battle in human history.
Hundreds of miles away, Pyotr Vavilov receives his call-up papers and spends a final night with his wife and children in the hut that is his home. As war approaches, the Shaposhnikov family gathers for a meal: despite her age, Alexandra will soon become a refugee, Tolya will enlist in the reserves, Vera, a Nurse, will fall in love with a wounded pilot and Viktor Shtrum will receive a letter from his doomed mother which will haunt him forever.
The war will consume the lives of a huge cast of characters - lives which express Grossman’s grand themes of the nation and the individual, nature’s beauty and war’s cruelty, love and separation.
For months, Soviet forces are driven back inexorably by the German advance eastward, and eventually Stalingrad is all that remains between the invaders and victory. The city stands on a cliff top by the Volga River. The battle for Stalingrad - a maelstrom of violence and firepower - will reduce it to ruins. But it will also be the cradle of a new sense of hope.
Stalingrad is a magnificent novel not only of war but of all human life: its subjects are mothers and daughters, husbands and brothers, generals, nurses, political officers, steelworkers, tractor girls. It is tender, epic and a testament to the power of the human spirit.
"One of the great novels of the 20th century, and now published in English for the first time." (Observer)
"A gripping panorama of the human experience." (Kenneth Branagh)
"You will not only discover that you love his characters and want to stay with them - that you need them in your life as much as you need your own family and loved ones - but that at the end...you will want to read it again." (Daily Telegraph)
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One of the greatest 20th century books
Before I even finished this book, I started thinking about which other 20th century books could compare in the beauty of the evocative prose (in what I assume is an excellent translation by Chandler), the importance of topic, and the depth and lucidity. It is hard to think of books that compare. This is great Russian literature (with the common challenge of Russian literature of too many Russian names for my name-challenged brain), and should be better known, and, hopefully, the stuff of literature courses. Reading this, I was able to imagine, and shudder, what it must have been like to live in the Soviet Union at the time. In reading various reviews of the book, I saw much concern about the censorship, and some reader critique that it is propaganda. Regarding the former, using your imagination to conjure what might have been censored or what Grossman refrained from putting in is not difficult. Regarding the latter - nonsense! It is not propaganda to view something through the eyes of the characters. Regardless of what I think of Stalin and Communism, I know that many Soviet citizens worshipped him at the time and only learned later the truth about his evils. I know that many people, after the revolution, had opportunities that they never would have had under the Tsar. And I cannot help but appreciate and value the determination of the Soviet citizens to defeat fascism and Nazi Germany. Nothing is black and white. Growing up during the Cold War, my history classes did not teach me enough about the heroes of the Soviet Union. There were many. This book is about individuals, and one decisive battle as seen through their and their families’ eyes. It is brilliant. The narrator, for some reason, took a bit of time to get used to, but I found him to be superb, with just the right amount of feeling and sadness in it all. We need an unabridged audio version of Life and Fate. I’ll preorder it.