If you have an interest in Stalin and the 1930's, which include the purges, this book is a must for you. For the most part I study the Military and Political history of the early Soviet Union and I had this book on my shelf for years before I finally decided to read it. But once I began I was amazed at myself that I had waited so long to finally dive into this book! The author has really done her research and it shows!
The reader will get a much better and broader understanding of what life was like in the 1930's and how a new state was coming into its own. Why certain groups or 'classes' were being targeted by the state and what happened to them. How some changed their entire lives just to get away from the OGPU and later NKVD. And interestingly enough the policies implemented by the state worked against making it a safer place. As they aggravated one group after another through trials and forced movements they made enemies where in the past there might not have been any.
It began to dawn on the government that these people would only seek vengeance once they were freed from punishment and it also created the idea that these people would be enemies for life. This, to a certain extent, explains why during the "Great Purge" which started in 1937 those released from GULag camps or special settlements, etc, were once again picked up and tried and sent to either prison or were executed. The examples the author draws upon are an excellent representation of the time period and people's thoughts recount what they felt and desired while living through this turbulent, to say the least, decade.
The one aspect of the Stalinist period that should be kept in mind, and appears throughout the book, is that no one was really safe in this time. From Communist officials who were being denounced by the hundreds to the regular man on the street who could be denounced because his apartment was bigger than his neighbors, or NKVD officials, one of whom a week before committing suicide visited and drank with the families of people who were denounced and he had to arrest and lastly even to Stalin's inner circle which witnessed the likes of Kaganovich losing his brother and Molotov his wife. A great contribution to the literature on Soviet Union under Stalin!