Sunday, July 24, 2011

2011 Reading Challenge~~Books #28 and #29

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn is not the kind of book I normally read voluntarily. I don't like delving into the intense suffering of others. The world can be very, very bleak ~ why should I read about it when I don't have to? Don't I get enough of that in that daily news? But wow! Am I glad I read this book. Solzhenitsyn is a master storyteller.

The book really does depict just a single day in the life of Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. It's a slice of life but not of a life any of us would want for ourselves. Through Shukhov's eyes we are given a view of a Soviet forced labor camp in the last days of Stalin's rule in 1953. We see how the prisoners contrive to survive cruel Siberian winters, overwork, and underfeeding. They develop their own micro-society, including a class/power hierarchy and an economy based on personal property. Nevermind that two main tenets of socialism abolish those societal structures.

Solzhenitsyn wrote this book based on his own experiences in a Soviet labor camp. Solzhenitsyn's camp is Shukhov's camp. One Day was the first widely distributed account of such a prison and was specifically mentioned when Solzhenitsyn was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1970. The writing is clear, plain, and powerful. The author gives us many subtle insights into the prisoners' methods of survival under such dire circumstances as he relates the happenings of the day. Though this type of book is not usually my cup of tea, I found it engaging and thought-provoking. I give it a definite thumbs up.

Oh, and Harry Potter ~ what can I say? I wanted to read and/or listen to the book before seeing the final movie installment, which didn't happen as we saw it when I was about halfway through. Oh, well. I stilled enjoyed both book and movie immensely. Do I need to say more? Those of you who love HP can get much better reviews elsewhere, and those of you who hate it are glad it's finally over and don't want to read more about it! So I'll say no more. lol

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