Book Review: The House of Government by Yuri Slezkine

The House of Government: A Saga of the Russian Revolution
by Yuri Slezkine
Princeton University Press

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'The House of Government' is packed with a fascinating tangle of true, uniquely Russian stories

The book's title is an actual place: a vast apartment building – built in 1931 for the new Communist ruling elite – standing on an embankment in the Moscow River, just opposite the Kremlin. 

The subtitle of Yuri Slezkine's mammoth new book, The House of Government, is “A Saga of the Russian Revolution,” and this, combined with the book's wry variation on the standard opening disclaimer – “This is a work of history. Any resemblance to fictional characters, dead or alive, is entirely coincidental” – gives a clear indication of the nature of Slezkine's ambition here. The sheer size of the book, 1,000 pages in the US hardcover, shows the scope of those ambitions.

Published in the Christian Science Monitor, August 18, 2017

Book Review: The Paris Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal

The Paris Spy
by Susan Elia MacNeal
Bantam, 2017

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“This is not my war” Susan Elia MacNeal’s redoubtable heroine Maggie Hope says at one point in the new series novel, The Paris Spy, and although the moment is deadly serious – she’s verbally sparring with a silky, venomous Obersturmbannführer in occupied Paris at the height of the Second World War, and if she slips up and breaks her cover (she’s in Paris to spy, of course, for the Special Operations Executive), she knows she’ll suffer the same fate as the Erica Calvert, the SOE agent whose recent disappearance in Paris has urgent relevance to the Allies’ advancing plans for the D-Day landing in Normandy – and yet the line will likely prompt a quick smile or laugh from long-time readers of MacNeal’s series. Ever since 2012’s Mr. Churchill’s Secretary, American-born Maggie Hope has been on half a dozen adventures with a cast of endearing supporting characters (including a good many well-drawn historical figures). She has fought, scrambled, connived, and sleuthed her way through more than enough adventures in hopes of thwarting the Nazis that it most certainly is her war – she owns it as thoroughly as any character in an ongoing mystery series.

Published in Open Letters Weekly, August 17, 2017