In most of my reviews I try very hard not to betray the story and allow you to discover it on your own. In fiction I rarely tell more than what you might read on the inside cover and usually even less. The fact that We the Living was Ayn Rand’s first novel blows me away. She admits that many of the characters were influenced by her life. From her Forward;
“We the Living is not a story about Soviet Russia in 1925. It is a story about dictatorship, any dictatorship, anywhere, at any time, whether it be Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany, or – which this novel might do its share in helping to prevent – a socialist America. What the rule of brute force does to men and how it destroys the best, will be the same in 1925, in 1955 or in 1975…When at the age of twelve, at the time of the Russian revolution, I first heard the Communist principle that Man must exist for the sake of the State, I perceived that this was the essential issue, that this principle was evil, and that it could lead to nothing but evil…I am still a little astonished, at times, that too many adult Americans do not understand the nature of the fight against communism as clearly as I understood it at the age of twelve: they continue to believe that only Communist methods are evil, while Communist ideals are noble.”
I obviously agree with the anti-Communist sentiment, but the novel does not preach. It illustrates Ayn Rand’s experience as she LIVED there at that brutal time. Many of us have heard stories about what life was like in Soviet Russia some even romanticize it. We The Living does not portray a romantic period, but rather the stark reality of living in a society where success and the successful are punished by those lessor, who are now are in power.
You could read this novel as a simple love story as it has all of those components, but it is so much more. We The Living grabbed me early and kept me until the end. It is so much more…
“Can you sacrifice the few? When those few are the best? Deny the best its right to the top – and you have no best left…I loathe your ideals because I know no worse injustice than the giving of the undeserved. Because men are not equal in ability and one can’t treat them as if they were.”