BOOK REVIEW: The Man Without a Face by Masha Gessen


Title: The Man Without a Face
Author: Masha Gessen
Publication: March 5, 2013
Publisher: Penguin Publishing
Genre: Biography
Pages: 352


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Author Info

SYNOPSIS: (From Goodreads)

The Man Without a Face is the chilling account of how a low- level, small-minded KGB operative ascended to the Russian presidency and, in an astonishingly short time, destroyed years of progress and made his country once more a threat to her own people and to the world.

Handpicked as a successor by the “family” surrounding an ailing and increasingly unpopular Boris Yeltsin, Vladimir Putin seemed like a perfect choice for the oligarchy to shape according to its own designs. Suddenly the boy who had stood in the shadows, dreaming of ruling the world, was a public figure, and his popularity soared. Russia and an infatuated West were determined to see the progressive leader of their dreams, even as he seized control of media, sent political rivals and critics into exile or to the grave, and smashed the country’s fragile electoral system, concentrating power in the hands of his cronies.

As a journalist living in Moscow, Masha Gessen experienced this history firsthand, and for The Man Without a Face she has drawn on information and sources no other writer has tapped. Her account of how a “faceless” man maneuvered his way into absolute-and absolutely corrupt-power has the makings of a classic of narrative nonfiction.


A few years ago my Dad gave me this book to read.  He got it for Christmas from my sister who my parents adopted from Russia along with her sister.  I am embarrassed to admit that while it looked really good and interesting, I also thought that it was a heavy-to-read book, so it sat neglected on my shelf for probably a good 4-5 years.  However, when all of the things with Ukraine happened, I decided that now was a good time to read it to find out why Putin did it in a sense. 

What started out as a Vanity Fair article blossomed into this book.  This book highlights the rise of Putin from a college student up through 2012.  While I am aware of some of the history of Russia but not a ton, I was in shock with how corrupt and dirty their government is as well as the people themselves.  They allow this to go on for year after year.  There is votes and protests but the outcome is still the same as it was prior to the election.  They are just not willing to break a cycle.  It also doesn’t help that Putin has his little dirty hand in just about everything, from Travel Magazines, to helping the wild animals.   He has something to say about everything. 

This book was certainly eye opening to say the least.  If you are interested in finding out how and why Putin ticks or even just want to read about the government of Russia this is the book for you.  I am really glad that I read it.  I am actually going to be sending it to my sister who bought it for my Dad for her to read.  I would probably check out more things by this author in the future.  Her writing is well researched and written in a way that you can understand it.  

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