Sunday, 2 December 2012

Stalin's Barber

Author: Paul M Levitt

Published: Dec 2012

What They Say:  Avraham Bahar leaves debt-ridden and depressed Albania to seek a better life in, ironically, Stalinist Russia. A professional barber, he curries favor with the Communist regime, ultimately being invited to become Stalin’s personal barber at the Kremlin, where he is entitled to live in a government house with other Soviet dignitaries. In the intrigue that follows, Avraham, now known as Razan, is not only barber to Stalin but also to the many Stalin look-alikes that the paranoid dictator circulates to thwart possible assassination attempts—including one from Razan himself.

What Elaine Says:  A fascinating and riveting look at Stalinist Russia.  Levitt’s writing takes us deep into the heart of the Kremlin and manages to convey all the duplicity, hypocrisy and horrors within. 

For a book of reasonable length (320 pages) this felt fairly epic.  It moves along quite slowly at first but the pace is just enough to keep you reading.  Wonderful characters and plenty of black humour kept me interested throughout.

Levitt’s writing is both beautiful and frank.  There’s not much held back and it is, at times, quite (understandably) grisly. 

All in all this is a smart, funny, detailed piece of historical fiction.  I for one will be looking forward to Levitt’s next offering.  

Please note this was an advanced review copy

Elaine's Rating: 8/10 

 "Razan knew that you could die for writing a single unorthodox line or a politically incorrect metaphor.  It was best to write nature poetry and not have to worry about a taboo subject destined to be airbrushed out of history.  Boris Pasternak had learned that lesson."

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