This story follows Ivan Denisovish Shukhov as he struggles to maintain his dignity in the face of Stalin’s forced work camps. The trials and tribulations only show one day from his ten year sentence.
So this book was recommended to me by one of my locals when I was working as a bar maid. He loved to talk books with me and often mentioned this one. Then he insisted that I read it, and even borrow his copy! Knowing that I had so many books on my list, I couldn’t possibly and so instead I bought one for myself with the intent on getting round to it when I could.
Of course I let this slip and then every time he saw me he asked me what I thought so I was given no choice but to finally read the blasted thing…
It only took me a few days to read as it has just over a hundred pages but it is definitely a book that I would recommend to someone who is looking for something a little different. I’d never heard of Solzhenitsyn but was pleasantly surprised by the story. It did take me a while to work out the voice, who Ivan was and who the people around him were as this wasn’t made overly clear.
I couldn’t help being sucked into the story and it reminded of that film, Papillon where he gets put into solitary confinement…perhaps that crossed with the Shawshank Redemption. I loved the fact that it wasn’t in the UK or even the USA which meant that we become absorbed in another culture. It almost has a WWII POW camp-like feel to it and is probably the closest thing we would have read about.
What amazed me was that this was just one day in Ivan’s life and there are moments you forget this as Solzhenitsyn has cunningly woven memories into the mix and built context to Ivan’s reason for being there. By the end of the day the stark realisation that he must do exactly the same again in the morning hits home the true hash reality of prison life.