Just Send Me Word by Orlando Figes

92%

20 Critic Reviews

This compelling book is as fascinating and inspiring as it is heartbreaking; a unique contribution to Gulag scholarship as well as a study of the universal power of love, as relevant now as it was then.
-Financial Times

Synopsis

A heroic love story and an unprecedented inside view of one of Stalin's most notorious labor camps, based on a remarkable cache of letters smuggled in and out of the Gulag

"I went to get the letters for our friends, and couldn't help but feel a little envious, I didn't expect anything for myself. And suddenly—there was my name, and, as if it was alive, your handwriting."

In 1946, after five years as a prisoner—first as a Soviet POW in Nazi concentration camps, then as a deportee (falsely accused of treason) in the Arctic Gulag—twenty-nine-year-old Lev Mishchenko unexpectedly received a letter from Sveta, the sweetheart he had hardly dared hope was still alive. Amazingly, over the next eight years the lovers managed to exchange more than 1,500 messages, and even to smuggle Sveta herself into the camp for secret meetings. Their recently discovered correspondence is the only known real-time record of life in Stalin's Gulag, unmediated and uncensored.

Orlando Figes, "the great storyteller of modern Russian historians" (Financial Times), draws on Lev and Sveta's letters as well as KGB archives and recent interviews to brilliantly reconstruct the broader world in which their story unfolded. With the powerful narrative drive of a novel, Just Send Me Word reveals a passion and endurance that triumphed over the tragic forces of history.

 

About Orlando Figes

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Orlando Figes is the author of The Crimean War, The Whisperers, Natasha's Dance, and A People's Tragedy, which have been translated into more than twenty languages. The recipient of the Wolfson History Prize and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, among others, Figes is a professor of history at Birkbeck College, University of London.
 
Published May 22, 2012 by Metropolitan Books. 352 pages
Genres: History, Biographies & Memoirs, Travel. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Just Send Me Word
All: 20 | Positive: 18 | Negative: 2

Kirkus

Excellent
Mar 15 2012

A heart-rending record of extraordinary human endurance.

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Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Neal Ascherson on May 30 2012

It's a fair guess that there will be challenges about fact and detail in Figes's narrative here. But that must not detract from the marvel of the letters themselves, the superb faith that can exist between two unimportant, "superfluous" human beings.

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Guardian

Excellent
Reviewed by Ian Thomson on May 19 2012

Just Send Me Word, grimly absorbing, conveys the pity of the Stalinist Gulag with integrity and proper sympathy.

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Financial Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Simon Sebag Montefiore on May 26 2012

This compelling book is as fascinating and inspiring as it is heartbreaking; a unique contribution to Gulag scholarship as well as a study of the universal power of love, as relevant now as it was then.

Read Full Review of Just Send Me Word | See more reviews from Financial Times

Star Tribune

Excellent
Reviewed by Michael Bonafield on Jun 09 2012

"Just Send Me Word" is a heroic, absolutely astounding love story told through the letters of Lev Mishchenko and Svetlana Ivanova, who met as students in the 1930s.

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The Telegraph

Excellent
Reviewed by Antony Beevor on May 28 2012

Figes, in his impeccable presentation of their story and its context, brings out how they “lived in a dual world of belief and doubt”.

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Christian Science Monitor

Excellent
Reviewed by Marjorie Kehe on May 25 2012

The result is Just Send Me Word, a remarkable love story intertwined with a rare glimpse into a harsh chapter of Soviet history.

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The Independent

Excellent
Reviewed by Oliver Bullough on May 19 2012

These letters give him ample opportunity to remind any remaining doubters of his talents, however, and sometimes they are so moving that he quotes them in full, with minimal commentary.

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Washington Independent Review of Books

Excellent
Reviewed by Maria Kontak

Details of Lev’s and Sveta’s busy lives and constructs of their parallel civilizations make this a necessary read for any historian of the era as well as the random politico-cultural voyeur.

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The Daily Beast

Excellent
Reviewed by Owen Matthews on Jun 10 2012

Figes, in Just Send Me Word, brings us closer to an understanding of the horror Stalin’s victims went through, in their own words.

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Historical Novel Society

Excellent
Reviewed by Jessica Brockmole on Aug 01 2012

Tender, yearning, but also heartbreakingly frustrated, this is a very human perspective on a dark slice of history.

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Macleans

Excellent
Reviewed by Brian Bethune on Jul 20 2012

...it’s the first-rate narrative historian, and not the academic greasy pole climber, on display in Just Send Word.

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Boston.com

Excellent
Reviewed by Rayyan Al-Shawaf on May 31 2012

...an enchanting marvel that reacquaints our technologically sophisticated but verbally deficient world with the power of the epistle to sustain love in the most trying of circumstances.

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We Love This Book

Excellent
Reviewed by Steve Hurley

Ultimately, though, this is a gripping story of the lives of two people who, against all the odds, keep their devotion alive.

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Mail Online

Excellent
Reviewed by Christopher Hudson on Jun 21 2012

Orlando Figes melds together this story with a sensitivity and mastery of detail which few historians could match.

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Literary Review

Good
Reviewed by Anna Reid on Mar 18 2014

Told through the letters they wrote to each other during the eight years Lev spent in the Gulag, their story is informative, immensely touching, and has an unusually happy ending.

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Spectator Book Club

Excellent
Reviewed by Anne Applebaum on Jun 02 2012

...a book which depicts with unusual intimacy the private lives of two people living in Stalin’s Soviet Union, while simultaneously telling the more universal story of what we would nowadays call a long-distance relationship.

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The Jewish Chronicle

Excellent
Reviewed by Andrew Rosemarine on Aug 03 2012

Figes, a considerable scholar of Communist Russia, evokes a heart-rending vision of the individual pitted against two totalitarian systems.

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Standpoint

Below average
Reviewed by Tibor Fischer on May 01 2012

Just Send Me Word contains few surprises for veterans of Solzhenitsyn or Shalamov, and could have been a little shorter...

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Historical Novel Review

Good
Jul 20 2012

This book is a shocking revelation about the harsh conditions and the tens of millions of lives lost because of the Soviet Communists.

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