In 1991 the USSR imploded after seven decades of communism. It briefly flirted with capitalism, before settling down to autocratic rule under Putin. In this hefty tome, Alexievich partakes in conversations with a varied cross section of people, and has interviewed scores of individuals with the intention of finding out how those left in the country of Russia think and feel now. She calls this people., Homo sovieticus, those that were left after the Marxist-Leninist experiment ended.
These people have witnessed the collapse of their society; some are glad to see the back of it and others mourn its loss. Rather than ask them what they think of society and where they think it should be, she asks about the everyday, their families, their lifestyle and the numerous ways that they eek out a life in post-Soviet Russia. From this narrative of the mundane the bigger picture comes together. It is sometimes a heart wrenching account of a fractured, splintered society and those who speak bare their souls to her.
It is dense, complicated and makes for uncomfortable reading. But, the picture it paints reveals the suffering of the people, their hopes, fears and present day anxieties. But, it is immensely rewarding, as it revels the character of a people in a touching portrait.