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Crime and Punishment is one of the greatest and most readable novels ever written. From the beginning we are locked into the frenzied consciousness of Raskolnikov who, against his better instincts, is inexorably drawn to commit a brutal double murder.
Crime and Punishment is one of the greatest and most readable novels ever written. From the beginning we are locked into the frenzied consciousness of Raskolnikov who, against his better instincts, is inexorably drawn to commit a brutal double murder.
A mysterious stranger, arrives in the provincial town of ‘N’, visiting a succession of landowners and proposes to buy the names of dead serfs still registered on the census, saving their owners from paying tax on them, and to use these ‘souls’ to re-invent himself as a gentleman. Russia’s first major novel, is one of the most unusual works of nineteenth-century fiction and a devastating satire on social hypocrisy.
Turgenev’s masterpiece about the conflict between generations is as fresh, outspoken, and exciting today as it was in when it was first published in 1862. The controversial portrait of Bazarov, the energetic, cynical, and self-assured `nihilist’ who repudiates the romanticism of his elders, shook Russian society, and is especially potent in the modern era.
Platonov’s dystopian novel describes the lives of a group of Soviet workers who believe they are laying the foundations for a radiant future. As they work harder and dig deeper, their optimism turns to violence and it becomes clear that what is being dug is not a foundation pit but an immense grave.
A rich, successful Moscow professor befriends a stray dog and attempts a scientific first by transplanting into a recently deceased man. A distinctly worryingly human animal is now on the loose, and the professor’s hitherto respectable life becomes a nightmare beyond endurance. An absurd and superbly comic story, this classic novel can also be read as a fierce parable of the Russian Revolution.
Lermotov’s hero, Pechorin, is a dangerous man, Byronic in his wasted gifts and his cynicism, and desperate for any kind of action that will stave off boredom. In five linked episodes, Lermontov builds up a portrait of a man caught in and expressing the sickness of his times.
A portrait of an age and a searing vision of Stalinist Russia, Life and Fate is also the story of a family, the Shaposhnikovs, whose lives in the army, the gulag, a physics institute, a power station and a concentration camp are stunningly evoked, from their darkest to their most poetic moments.
In May 1937 a man in his early thirties waits by the lift of a Leningrad apartment block. He waits all through the night, expecting to be taken away to the Big House. Any celebrity he has known in the previous decade is no use to him now. And few who are taken to the Big House ever return. A fictionalised account of Dmitri Shostakovich’s life under the Stalin regime.
Dostoevsky’s genius is on display in this powerful existential novel. The apology and confession of a minor mid-19th-century Russian official, Notes from Underground, is a half-desperate, half-mocking political critique and a powerful, at times absurdly comical, account of man’s breakaway from society and descent ‘underground’.
This powerful novel, Tolstoy’s third major masterpiece, after War and Peace and Anna Karenina, begins with a courtroom drama (the finest in Russian literature) all the more stunning for being based on a real-life event. Dmitri Nekhlyudov, called to jury service, is astonished to see in the dock, charged with murder, a young woman whom he once seduced, propelling her into prostitution.
Spectacular book and translation, full of gorgeous detail, readable and attractive language, and a vast cast of minor characters that are more interesting than the actual plot. I know I like big thick books, and if you do too, then I bet you think this is absolutely superb.
Doctor Zhivago is the epic story of the life and loves of a poet-physician during the turmoil of the Russian Revolution. Taking his family from Moscow to what he hopes will be shelter in the Ural Mountains, Yuri Zhivago finds himself instead embroiled in the battle between the Whites and the Reds, and in love with the tender and beautiful nurse Lara.
In early nineteenth-century Russia, the threat of Napoleon’s invasion looms, and the lives of millions are about to be changed forever. This includes Pierre Bezúkhov, illegitimate son of an aristocrat; Andrew Bolkónski, ambitious military scion; and Natásha Rostóva, compassionate daughter of a nobleman. All of them are unprepared for what lies ahead. Alongside their fellow compatriots—a catalog of enduring literary characters—Pierre, Andrew, and Natásha will be irrevocably torn between fate and free will.
A beautiful society wife from St. Petersburg, determined to live life on her own terms, sacrifices everything to follow her conviction that love is stronger than duty. A socially inept but warmhearted landowner pursues his own visions instead of conforming to conventional views. The adulteress and the philosopher head the vibrant cast of characters in Anna Karenina, Tolstoy’s tumultuous tale of passion and self-discovery.
The story of labor-camp inmate Ivan Denisovich Shukhov, it graphically describes his struggle to maintain his dignity in the face of communist oppression. An unforgettable portrait of the entire world of Stalin’s forced work camps, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is one of the most extraordinary literary documents to have emerged from the Soviet Union and confirms Solzhenitsyn’s stature as “a literary genius whose talent matches that of Dosotevsky, Turgenev, Tolstoy”
Where to start? The expose of the millennium, which lays bare the brutality of the USSR. A window into the human soul – our ability to twist and contort our morality to do the most heinous acts, but how, in rare cases, people do not lose their sense of morality even as the system they live in crushes them.
After years in enforced exile on the Kazakhstan steppes, a cancer diagnosis brings Oleg Kostoglotov to Ward 13. Brutally treated in squalid conditions, and faced with ward staff and other patients from across the Soviet Union, Kostoglotov finds himself thrown once again into the gruelling mechanics of a state still haunted by Stalinism.
In the first month of the First World War the Russian campaign against the Germans creaks into gear. Crippled by weak, indecisive leadership the Russian troops battle desperately, even as the inevitability of failure and their own sacrifice dawns. Solzhenitsyn’s astounding work of historical fiction is a portrait of pre-revolutionary Russia, a tragic war story, and an epic novel in the great Russian tradition.

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