Published: 2002 by Random House
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Inessa Armand is a fascinating historical figure. She is most famous for her role as Lenin’s mistress, but was quite remarkable in her own right. She lived during the late 1800s-early 1900s, at a time when women had few rights and little social mobility. However, instead of living with that role, Inessa had an open marriage with her husband, basically telling him from the start that she’d get bored of him and one day leave him. She eventually did that, and focused her time on becoming a revolutionary. She had her legendary affair with Lenin and became an influential Bolshevik in her own right.
Pearson did a great job of researching this book, but I have one major complaint. He made it very clear in the second half of his book that he absolutely loathes Lenin. This can be a problem when you’re writing a book on mistress of someone you despise. Toward the end of the book, I kept finding myself saying, “Look dude, I know you hate Lenin, but I want to read Inessa’s story, not a tirade against Lenin. Really? Really?”
I’d love to see Inessa’s story explored as historical fiction. I can understand why Pearson chose to write a biography rather than a novel, because certain elements of Inessa’s life are rather fantastic in their own right, to the point that in a fiction novel one might think that real details are embellishment.
Overall, I highly recommend this book, despite the anti-Lenin bias, mostly because it’s the only reliable biography of Inessa Armand, and I think that more people should know her story.