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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

Average Customer Ratings

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Should be compulsory reading

This should be required reading for every school. After reading this no one in their right mind can declare war .

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Oral history at its finest

Listening to this book brought home the horrendous experience of war, particularly for women in the Soviet Union in World War II. The vivid recollections were at times painful to listen to, but important to hear. There are some books which to me have more impact when listened to rather than when read on a page. This is one of them. A monumental work!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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impressive and moving

Powerful stories. Amazing depth and span of narratives. Highly recommended for all interested in the history of WWII and Soviet studies.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Should be required reading for Military and high school seniors

Not an easy read but we can’t forget history. Slow start but keep reading. The stories seemed to be repeated.

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An inspiring story of Soviet Women at War

This is a deeply ennobling and inspiring, if at times harrowing, account of Soviet women at war. The narration is authentic to the times, with the accent emphasized. It makes it seem like you are actually listening to Russian, Ukrainian, and Soviet women tell about their experiences. There are lots of great individual stories found in this book. Its tragic and heartbreaking, but worth the read.

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Required Reading

Once you get into this it's impossible to stop listening. The work was years in the making and survived Soviet censors and years where it was unwise to criticize the government. This is well worth your time. There are frightening parallels between this period in history and the present. This is not written with that in mind but is there nonetheless.

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  • dazzleink
  • Imperial, CA, United States
  • 04-06-18

Immersive and Devastating

I alternated between being mesmerized, repulsed, heavy with sorrow, and uplifted by the accounts of the women who suffered through the horrors of war on the battleground and behind the scenes. The uncomfortable truth yet aching humanity in every story kept me tied to this audiobook for weeks. I had to pace myself between some of the more horrifying stories. But, at the same time, I am grateful to Svetlana for putting these powerful stories to paper. They are stunning reminders that war, glorified in victory stories and decorations, has a horrible side of hatred, death, and suffering, but human kindness and beauty can still find its way through.

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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.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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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.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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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.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful