Reviews

  • A loving and mournful account that’s also skeptical, surprising and often very funny… It’s the unexpected specificity of Halberstadt’s observations that ultimately make this memoir as lush and moving as it is.

    Jennifer Szalai, New York Times
  • An illuminating, dramatic and wistful family memoir... [Halbertstadt] has a knack for memorable images... It's as if his feelings about Russia were frozen in time when he emigrated, leaving shards of perception that are peculiarly incisive... Majestic writing.

    Matthew Janney, Spectator
  • With its diverse stories, Young Heroes of the Soviet Union is excellent as a record of how a single family can be tied up in so many strands of history... Halberstadt has a surprising lightness of touch (given the weighty subject matter), allowing him to deftly explore the impact of his family's past on the present. It is a very good way of chronicling the individual alongside the behemoth of twentieth-century history: a fascinating and impactful read.

    India Lewis, Arts Desk
  • This terrific, gripping book, part family memoir, part history...[is] a superb evocation of the Soviet Union in the 1960s and '70s, a world of drab poverty and oppression, but also young rebels listening to pop music, wearing western fashions and reading dissident poetry.

    David Herman, Jewish Chronicle
  • I remember being in a bar with Alex Halberstadt almost twenty years ago, talking about our families, when he said, "Did I ever tell you my grandfather was Stalin’s bodyguard?" He hadn’t. I suggested that he write a book about it. Not in my most hopeful imaginings could that book have turned out to be as surprising, sad, funny, and engrossing as the one he wrote. This is history as memoir, and vice versa. Describing Russia in the twentieth century as a place where "the buffer between history and biography became nearly imperceptible," he made me feel how this is true of all places, for all of us.

    John Jeremiah Sullivan
  • In this urgent and enthralling reckoning with family and history, Alex Halberstadt describes the disjunction between his Soviet childhood and his American adolescence with incandescent wit, a sometimes bitter but always compelling nostalgia, and great literary flair. This book is a triumph over the shame he experienced as he was growing up, and a narrative of his struggle against steep odds to become a whole person.

    Andrew Solomon
  • [An] elegant testimony to the subordination of human life to the will of an overmighty state.

    Robert Leigh-Pemberton, Daily Telegraph
  • Reading Young Heroes of the Soviet Union is an immersion in waters of profound depth and bracing lambency. The light glows in the quiet acuity of the prose. And it shines on vast and dire patterns that transcend the merely personal—the unfathomable hardships that nations and families inflict on people, and how we endure. This truly excellent book will transform your understanding of what memoir can do.

    Wells Tower
  • Fascinating.

    Julia Llewellyn Smith, Mail on Sunday

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