This book was the kind of book that I didn’t want to put down, but also couldn’t read much of at one time. There was just a lot of information that I needed time to be process. There was a lot of talk of vile things like torture, war, murder, etc., which was uncomfortable to read unless I took breaks between sections of the story.
Another slight issue is that the book was dry, but I wasn’t reading it because I wanted to read a good story. I was reading it for the information and insight that it could provide. The information was so intriguing that I didn’t want to stop reading it. Before reading the book, I knew that this man was one who has encouraged homophobia, sexism, and who was linked to some very suspicious deaths of political dissidents. The story painted in the book showed that my personal description of him was way too nice. One could argue that everything was conjecture and speculation, but I can’t. There were so many well-known victims of this man’s corruption who were mentioned and whose stories were told in even more depth than I’d seen before. It helped to give this book more credence in my perspective.
Several people have said that it is a biased account, which is obvious without their stating it. She lived under someone who can easily be classified as an authoritarian or a tyrant. That would lead one to develop certain opinions of that political leader. And when the leader is notoriously private about his life and is a real “lives in the shadows” personality, it is hard to present the full picture of this man. Gessen did the best that she could with the information that she was available to accumulate. The whole idea of him being “a man without a face” comes from his extremely secretive nature and ability to be whatever the situation requires him to be–so long as it doesn’t conflict with his own personal interests.
I think this is definitely a very informative book and that people who are interested in Putin, Russia, and the more recent history of the country will enjoy the book. Other people probably should look for something a little less intense.