Full book name: "The Whisperers - Private life in Stalin's Russia"

This is a long, very well researched (35 pages of references!) book about life in Soviet Russia during Stalin's reign, and especially during the period of the Great Terror in the end of the 1930s.

The approach Figes takes is unusual with historical accounts. This is not a typical historical book that laconically cites events in chronological order attempting to focus on several exciting episodes. The author examines history from the point of view of the people who lived in those times, relying mostly on oral history to retell the past. And although oral history is not without problems, it is certainly better in many aspects than the official history of the Soviet Union which was heavily censored by the authorities for decades, and from which it's very hard to discern what's true and what isn't.

Indeed, this approach makes a book with unique tempo. Events are described from the point of view of individuals who were interviewed (or whose memoirs, letters and diaries were recorded), and therefore deal mostly with the personal aspects of these events - how they've affected the people, their families and their friends.

I think Figes did a very good job describing the horrors of Stalin's rule. Some descriptions are gut wrenching - it's hard to imagine how people could exist in such conditions. True, in the past people survived through difficult periods, but when your human core - freedom, is suppressed, deliberately and aggressively, life can hardly be tolerable.

Although most of the book is very interesting to read, some parts of it are heavy, and as it's also quite long, reading it for long periods of time is difficult. It helps to have some lighter reading on the side to break the monotony.

All in all, "The Whisperers" is definitely recommended for anyone with interest in the history of the Soviet Union.