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Publisher's Summary

A long-awaited English translation of the groundbreaking oral history of women in World War II across Europe and Russia - from the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature.

For more than three decades, Svetlana Alexievich has been the memory and conscience of the 20th century. When the Swedish Academy awarded her the Nobel Prize, it cited her invention of "a new kind of literary genre", describing her work as "a history of emotions...a history of the soul".

In The Unwomanly Face of War, Alexievich chronicles the experiences of the Soviet women who fought on the front lines, on the home front, and in the occupied territories. These women - more than a million in total - were nurses and doctors, pilots, tank drivers, machine-gunners, and snipers. They battled alongside men, and yet, after the victory, their efforts and sacrifices were forgotten.

Alexievich traveled thousands of miles and visited more than 100 towns to record these women's stories. Together this symphony of voices reveals a different aspect of the war - the everyday details of life in combat left out of the official histories.

Translated by the renowned Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, The Unwomanly Face of War is a powerful and poignant account of the central conflict of the 20th century, a kaleidoscopic portrait of the human side of war.

"But why? I asked myself more than once. Why, having stood up for and held their own place in a once absolutely male world, have women not stood up for their history? Their words and feelings? They did not believe themselves. A whole world is hidden from us. Their war remains unknown...I want to write the history of that war. A women's history." (Svetlana Alexievich)

©2017 Svetlana Alexievich (P)2017 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"Alexievich's artistry has raised oral history to a totally different dimension. It is no wonder that her brilliant obsession with what Vasily Grossman called 'the brutal truth of war' was suppressed for so long by Soviet censors, because her unprecedented pen portraits and interviews reveal the face of war hidden by propaganda." (Antony Beevor, author of Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege)
"Whatever you thought you knew about the war, you should put it aside and listen to the voices here." (Library Journal)

What members say

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the best book about war I've ever read

I'm a combat vet, and I've never thought to consider the role women played in World War II, especially in the Russian army. the voices and stories of these women are incredibly moving, beautiful and horrifying at once. Love, loss, hatred, and Redemption. this book and Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee are the two most important books I have ever read.

do yourself a favor and read this or listen to this.

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Remarkable Stories by a Gifted Story Teller

This is the second captivating book by this author that I have read. Personal accounts from women who fought as Soviet snipers and artillery personnel as well as from women medics and nurses in WWII are poignant and often heartbreaking. It would be interesting to hear contemporary women who serve in the military compare their experiences to those of Soviet women who fought 75 years ago.

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Listened two times in a row.

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

This book is amazing. Not only did I learn about the participation of Soviet women during WW2, this book evokes the very personal experiences of the women without being overly sentimental. I highly recommend this book.

Which character – as performed by Julia Emelin and Yelena Shmulenson – was your favorite?

There was a passage where a woman pleads with her commander to be able to take her husband's body back home to be buried. She speaks about the need to bury him because she will have nothing after the war except his grave. Her family had been killed by the Germans, she had no children and their home was burned down. It was a very moving passage and I cried both times that I listened to it.

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Amazing historical book - well done!

Would you consider the audio edition of The Unwomanly Face of War to be better than the print version?

Yes - hearing the Russian accented narration made the stories even more realistic.

Any additional comments?

Well worth a listen! The Soviet Union payed a terrible price in lives in that war and it is seldom recognized. These ladies are an amazing part of that story that is even less known. Their descriptions of wanting to fight, how poorly prepared the male dominated military was for women in their ranks, and how females in combat were treated during and after the war are both tragic and inspiring. Hats off to the author for bringing these stories to light, and hats off to the women who shared their stories and what they sacrificed during that war.

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