Monday, February 22, 2016

Review: Odessa: Genius and Death in a City of Dreams by Charles King

Title: Odessa: Genius and Death in a City of Dreams
Author: Charles King 
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: W.W. Norton
Publish Date: February 28, 2011
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "Italian merchants, Greek freedom fighters, and Turkish seamen; a Russian empress and her favorite soldier-bureaucrats; Jewish tavern keepers, traders, and journalists—these and many others seeking fortune and adventure rubbed shoulders in Odessa, the greatest port on the Black Sea.

Here a dream of cosmopolitan freedom inspired geniuses and innovators, from Alexander Pushkin and Isaac Babel to Zionist activist Vladimir Jabotinsky and immunologist Ilya Mechnikov. Yet here too was death on a staggering scale: not only the insidious plagues common to seaports but also the mass murder of Jews carried out by the Romanian occupation during World War II. Drawing on a wealth of original source material, Odessa is an elegy for the vibrant, multicultural tapestry of which a thriving Jewish population formed an essential part, as well as a celebration of the survival of Odessa's dream in a diaspora reaching all the way to Brighton Beach."

My Two Cents:

"Odessa" is a nonfiction book by Charles King, a professor and historian who focuses on eastern Europe. Odessa is a gorgeous city on the coast of Ukraine that has belonged to different countries at different times. Because of its location, it is an incredibly desirable place strategically! This book is the history of this wonderfully interesting city that will appeal to my fellow history lovers.

What initially drew me to this book is the fact that several years ago in 2011 I visited Ukraine and had a chance to go to Odessa. After being in cities like Kyiv, Odessa is incredibly different. It has a very interesting history. It was basically a planned city by Catherine the Great, one of my favorite historical figures to read about. The city was to act as a haven for Russian royalty. It sits on the Black Sea, which means that it was coveted by many other people throughout its history.

In this book King talks about many of the people who had a hand in making Odessa what it is today. It's a fascinating story even if you have never been to Odessa. I actually wish that I had read this book before I went to Odessa so I had a little bit more of a background as to what I would see. This book will appeal to history lovers and those who especially loved eastern European history.



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