techeditor, September 30, 2014
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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.