Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin - Timothy Snyder Sweeping, meticulous, wearying. In many ways an admirable book, but i'm not sure it's a needful one.

Perhaps because, maybe due to being a Ukrainian Jew, the Holocaust and Soviet history have always been fairly prominent in my sense of European history, theres little here thats strictly new, and much of it learned in school. (Some poignant episodes I hadn't heard of, others that i'm familiar with missing.)

Due to the narrow focus (mass murder) the ideology and politics that led there are given fairly short shrift and often reduced to didactic, almost caricaturish and sometimes, to me at least, not entirely convincing explanations. Theres also an exhaustive repetition, both the sheer scale and facts - a list of counts of the dead in mass shootings in Polish villages inevitably sounds rather like a list of body counts in Ukrainian or Latvian ones - but also actual repetition of facts and arguments.

The choice to define half of Europe by the number of corpses buried in its forests and slap a melodramatic label on it strikes me as inevitably reductive. The book comes down to a list of body counts, ultimately largely shorn of politics and personality, despite repeated attempts to assure us of the humanity behind the numbers.


Also, be wise and learn from the mistakes of others: do not use book as bedtime reading.