Author: Svetlana Alexievich, Richard Pevear, Larissa Volokhonsky
Summary: This was a tough read, but it was amazing to hear emotional, first-hand accounts from women in WWII.
I previously read Nobel Prize-winning, Belarusian journalist, Svetlana Alexievich’s Voices from Chernobyl, and I was blown away by that collection of beautiful and moving interviews. The Unwomanly Face of War is a similar collection of interviews with Soviet women who served in WWII and with a few of the men who served with them. Unlike Voices from Chernobyl, this collection includes some commentary from Alexievich explaining how she became interested in this topic and her process for conducting interviews.
As you might imagine, this was an incredibly dark and difficult read. There was minimal sexual violence, but the violence of war was still heartbreaking. War crimes were committed by soldiers on both sides of the conflict and innocent bystanders, including children, were often caught up in the violence. Honestly, I think my mood was a little less upbeat the entire week I was reading this.
Despite or perhaps even because of how tough this book was to read, I have to recommend it. Reading these vivid, emotional, first-hand accounts is a unique experience you shouldn’t miss. I learned a lot about the place and time. I learned about the one million Soviet women who served in WWII, women whose skills and sacrifices changed the course of history but who are often forgotten. And I learned, the tiniest bit, about the horror of war. It’s such a worthwhile read, you definitely shouldn’t miss it.