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One Day in the Life Ivan Denisovich - Review

As time speeds forward, our memories begin to become stale and eventually forgotten. Scenes such as the day Kennedy was shot, the space shuttle exploding, or the demise of the Berlin wall resonate, but the details of being present as history was made eventually fades. After the Cold War ended and our attention turned to other parts of the world, we began to forget the true horrors that occurred and the cries of generations for government atrocities. We remembered the Japanese-American and the Nazi concentration camps. What we forget are the ones in the Soviet Union that functioned for decades while being denied by the very ones who created them. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich was immortalized so that we don’t forget.

The author, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, dared to defy a government and tell the world that life was not rosy in his homeland. He saw the lies being perpetrated and chose a unique way to tell them. This book is not a report of the various concentration camps. It is one day of a man’s life who has been in the camps for many years. It shows what he has learned to survive. It……. Let me tell you exactly what you will and will not find within this book.

You Will Not Find:

- Analyzes of the functioning of the camps. This is not meant to be a ten thousand page book on all concentration camps.
- Stomach turning scenes of abuse.
- Descriptions of camp politics
- Political involvement
- The history of these camps

You Will Find:

- What it was to live as a prisoner of a camp in one 24-hour period.
- How meager food rations can be viewed as a king’s meal
- How some men can survive harsh Siberian winters and grueling hard labor
- Man can decide to survive and face another day or he can give up
- There are injustices in this world that have no explanation

This book was written to show the world that there were men and women imprisoned for nothing more than breathing and existing. When their sentences were up, there was no explanation given for a ten year extension. There was no reasoning for spending thirty years locked up with your family fending for itself back home while you worked for the state and tried to survive year after year. Solzhenitsyn does an excellent job of showing how one hardened veteran still can care for another yet find a way to keep himself alive.

A great historical supplement to a study of twentieth century history, it can be read from high school level and up though the younger ages should be assigned this book with caution. Though there are no horrific scenes that should be taken into account, Solzhenitsyn does not sugar-coat the language used by prisoners and guards. Be prepared for many four-letter words and various harsh phrases.

The size of the book is also appealing. An avid could have this book read through in just a couple of hours. It is the research you perform afterwards to learn more that takes up more time.

I highly recommend this book to open our eyes a little further into the history of Russia that occurred in many of our lifetimes. It gets the reader wanting to know more and to discover what began under Stalin and continued through other leaders until the exposure of the state secrets brought down the whole country.

Disclaimer: This book was not provided to the editor as a gift or asked of her to review it. It was a book sitting on her shelf for many years and obtained from unknown sources over ten years before.

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