This huge novel will become the War and Peace of the twentieth century. There is a newly published English translation, a labour of love which makes sense of the many drafts written by Vasily Grossman in the Soviet era. He was a war correspondent during WW2 and documented the German advance towards Stalingrad. He had first hand experience of the horrors of war and its impact on ordinary lives.
This will be a challenging read for me. My usual bedtime reading consists of murder mysteries which I can demolish in a couple of days. This book might take me a couple of years. After a few chapters, I am impressed by the level of detail Grossman reveals. For example, a description of the peasant lifestyle of Vavilov, who receives his call-up papers early in the piece, resembles the abject poverty yet apparent contentment of an earlier Russian era. How could this be 1940? Vavilov leaves for the war, knowing he will never return to the life he loves. He cannot bear to go, but he has no choice.