Book Review: Just Send Me Word: A True Story of Love and Survival in the Gulag by Orlando Figes

Just Send Me Word by Orlando Figes Title: Just Send Me Word: A True Story of Love and Survival in the Gulag
Author: Orlando Figes
Publisher: Penguin Group
ISBN: 9780241955901
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 352
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

To live a life away from the one that you love is not easy at all. It almost leaves me breathless thinking about it. I mean just the thought of it is enough for me to send out a prayer for it to never happen to two people who love each other deeply. And while I type this, I am thinking of a wondrous book I finished reading this month. A lot has been written on war camps and the tortures people had to undergo in any war-time, in any country and any place in the world. However, this book is extremely close to my heart after I finished reading it, and now to its review.

“Just Send Me Word” is a moving love story of two people, Lev and Sveta, who first met while taking an entrance exam in Moscow University in 1935, moving through tough times of the Gulag and ending only with their death in old age. The book talks of how these two loved through these tough times and the only means of exchange they had through these times were letters. This is when Lev was a victim of the political scene and could not do much about it. All they had were letters.

Letters written in abundance and smuggled in and out of concentration camps – from those of WWII to the ones at Gulag and the ones that existed during the Cold War. Lev’s life was that of a prisoner from 1946 to 1954, almost eight to nine years, knowing that his wife loved him and keeping the faith that they would meet someday.

What follows in the book is simply extraordinary – the lives led through letters, the exchanges that take place, the longing to have a normal life and being denied that. There are lots of life lessons in this book as put by Orlando Figes – the way he saw it while reading their letters. I was only too glad that he decided to write a book of this nature, which is not only unique but also quite moving. While a lot has been written about the Gulags and the condition that existed in those war camps, this one provided a heartfelt perspective to me – it was beautiful, hopeful and as a reader I was hooting for the couple to see it through it all and be reunited.

Books like these speak to you. As a reader you do not have to relive the experience or have gone through it. I guess you just need to have a heart – the one that feels the words and the emotions and can connect to them like any other human being. It somehow makes you see the atrocities of war and how love triumphs almost everything. I would not say that this should be made into a film at all (though it has all the elements of one), however it should be felt again and again for the beauty of its words. A must read for a reader who wants to cry and feel happy at the end of it all.

Here is a sneak peak from the book, from Sveta’s perspective and what she thinks to herself: “if letters couldn’t be smuggled in, why couldn’t she?”

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One thought on “Book Review: Just Send Me Word: A True Story of Love and Survival in the Gulag by Orlando Figes

  1. Mark

    I had the fortune to see Figes at a lecture he gave on the book – and I just had to buy it. It’s that rather delicious juxtaposition, isn’t it? How love endures the most terrible hardships. You couldn’t make this stuff up.


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