All of the characters in the story were archetypes. The rich ones were, without exception, evil, selfish and boorish. The poor ones were noble, hard-working and (of course) Communist. Oh, and oppressed by the aforementioned rich people. They sat around talking about how wonderful life will be when Latvia becomes a Communist paradise. Then when the Communists did arrive, the poor characters went on a crusade righting wrongs, persecuting kulaks and organizing meetings. They created a collective farm and lived happily ever after.
I read all of this with the cynicism that comes with 21st-century hindsight. Janis and Elze were sitting around talking about how great Communism will be, just as their Ukrainian neighbors to the south were starving by the millions under the collectivization system. Aivar served bravely as a Red Army soldier during World War II and there was no mention of the terrible conditions the soldiers had to endure — and the atrocities they committed. The entire war and the Holocaust in Latvia was covered in a few hundred pages without one mention of the word "Jew."
It comes as no surprise to me that the author of this novel was a prominent Latvian Communist who, under Stalin's reign of terror, had some 40,000 of his countrymen arrested and deported.
If all the Latvians had to read during the Soviet years was rubbish like this, I feel very sorry for them.
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