When I read one of these disillusionment stories, it's so predictable for it to be about the Soviet bloc. The fact that it's historical fiction doesn't change this, because the themes are still there. I remember when Laura Apol suggested we consider that Lois Lowry's The Giver might actually be about our own society instead of some other, it blew open the way I read dystopia novels. So the big question is, does a novel like this help me consider the ways I blindly buy into the party line or does it just make me glad I wasn't there during Stalin's regime?
Because I read this so quickly on the heels of The Bomb and The Wall, it makes me think about the competition between the US and the CCCP. In particular, this book emphasizes the propaganda about how bad things must be for daily life in the 'enemy' country--we were fed SO much of this when I was a kid (in Russia they don't believe in God and don't get any Christmas presents). It made me wonder whether the standard for daily lifestyle here wasn't actually 'created' as a response to communist pressures worldwide. Leaders in all countries must have been rightly afraid of revolution after 1917. Was ensuring an enviable daily life part of the competition of the pre-War and Cold-War years? What would have happened without that competition? Would we still think depression-era standards of living were okay?