Rating: 3 out of 5
Average at best. Mr Figes seems to be a fan of recounting facts, one after another. This makes for a rather heavy book, though that perhaps does justice to the subject matter – the Crimean War. It is odd, however, that in all of this detail and fact, certain areas that the Crimean War touched upon are quite ignored.
Some topics get their obligatory mention — the Charge of the Light Brigade, the Siege of Sevastopol, Count Lev Tolstoy, and Florence Nightingale all feature in quite some detail (indeed, certain chapters read more like a life of Tolstoy than a book about the war). In some cases, these people or events are also put into context with Florence Nightingale being investigated in some detail as well as compared to her French and Russian counterparts.
These thorough investigations contrasted heavily with other parts of the book where certain characters felt as if they had been typecast into their parts. The Russian leadership fell party to this more than the other participants though Lord Palmerston also comes through as an evil sprite, intent on spreading death and destruction.
Overall, while I would think this book gives a good overview on the proceedings of the war, I think it mars the character of nearly all the participants and main leaders. Some critical aspects of the Russian poor response to the Allied offensive are not explained in detail either. It feels in parts quite as if the author had set upon a story they wanted to describe — and then set upon that task!