The unforgettable oral history of Soviet women's experiences in the Second World War from the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature.
'Why, having stood up for and held their own place in a once absolutely male world, have women not stood up for their history? A whole world is hidden from us. Their war remains unknown . . . I want to write the history of that war. A women's history.'
In the late 1970s, Svetlana Alexievich set out to write her first book, The Unwomanly Face of War, when she realized that she grew up surrounded by women who had fought in the Second World War but whose stories were absent from official narratives. Travelling thousands of miles, she spent years interviewing hundreds of Soviet women - captains, tank drivers, snipers, pilots, nurses and doctors - who had experienced the war on the front lines, on the home front and in occupied territories.
With the dawn of Perestroika, a heavily censored edition came out in 1985 and it became a huge bestseller in the Soviet Union - the first in five books that have established her as the conscience of the twentieth century.
“A monument to courage . . . it would be hard to find a book that feels more important or original . . . Her achievement is as breathtaking as the experiences of these women are awe-inspiring ”
Viv Groskop, Observer
“Astonishing . . . an extraordinary oral history of the Russian women who fought in the Second World War . . . it is also an essay on the power of memory, on what is remembered and what is forgotten”
Caroline Moorehead, Guardian
“Hauntingly elegiac . . . These stories about the women warriors of Mother Russia are a symphony of feminine suffering and strength . . . Read this book. And then read it again”
Gerard DeGroot, The Times