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The Denouncer


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ISBN13: 9781589799677
ISBN10: 1589799674
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cblaker, November 2, 2014 (view all comments by cblaker)
One can't expect a novel about Stalinist Russia to be cheery. Although this is not a sunny novel, it is well-written and interesting. A book like Everyday Stalinism can educate a person but a reader generally needs a novel to get a feel what individuals lives are like.
The author captures the paranoia that existed at that time between citizens, and even among families and lovers.
The novel centers on Sasha, a student who returns to find his parents being arrested by the secret police. In a moment of fury he kills both policemen with a scythe. Then he and his parents flee. Sasha returns to school and is questioned by the secret police. He is cleared of the murder however he is recruited as an informant and is tasked with expressing condolences to the deal policeman's family. Sasha ends up falling in love with the wife of a man he murdered.
The story becomes more complicated from there as the characters lie and deceive each other. The reader gets a feel for what a dismal time it was for people when you couldn't even trust someone you shared a bed with. At times the revelation of character back stories seemed a bit awkward. I'd recommend this novel for those that like Russian literature or want to learn more about Russia but who might not want to read non-fiction.
As a side note I appreciated that the author included a glossary of Russian terms. Although I’ve read enough Russian books to be familiar with most of the words, an average reader can‘t expect to be. Instead of being a pompous writer like Cormac McCarthy and including dense conversations in a foreign language with no translation, this author chose to have a bit of consideration for his audience.
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techeditor, September 30, 2014 (view all comments by techeditor)
It took me a long time to decide between three and four stars. I chose four because Paul Levitt is obviously smarter than I am, and I should have understood what he was getting at sooner. I'm still not sure that I got all of it.

This story takes place in pre-World War II Soviet Union. My understanding is simply this: Sasha committed a crime (as far as the Soviet Union would have been concerned). The remainder of the book involves his concern with escaping discovery. He has to be suspicious of everyone, just as everyone in the Soviet Union had to be suspicious of everyone, even best friends, even lovers, even relatives. We see example after example of suspicious people and why they needed to be suspicious and what happened when they weren't suspicious.

The Soviet Union was full of all sorts of scary problems. But Levitt seems to be saying that it all came down to this: a country is doomed if no one can trust anyone.

This book deserves a second reading. That is not to say that the subjects--pre-World War II Soviet Union and life under Stalin--are not familiar to me. But, although my reading comprehension is usually quite good, I'm afraid that my mind sometimes wandered because Levitt's storytelling is slow. (Interesting that I should say "although," considering the book's many references to the Soviet Union's preference for "although.")

My copy of this book was a giveaway from librarything.com.
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Product Details

Levitt, Paul M.
Taylor Trade Publishing
Literature-A to Z
Publication Date:

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The Denouncer New Hardcover
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