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We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Book Review

This historical fiction, drama by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn is published by Greenhaven Press, an imprint of Thomson-Gale and is written for adults but is sometimes studied by kids 16 years and up.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Ivan Denisovich (Shukhov), like his fellow prisoners in the communist work camp, was wrongly imprisoned. This novel — based on some of Solzhenitsyn's own experiences in similar camps — chronicles just one of the 3,653 days of Shukhov's sentence. Through Shukhov's eyes, readers feel the chill of sub-freezing conditions while prisoners lay brick, sense the hunger resulting from inadequate food rations and grasp the dehumanizing effect that life in these camps has on prisoners. Shukhov and members of his work gang watch out for each other like family, and each man seeks, in his own way, to discover some meaning and fulfillment in horrific conditions.

Christian Beliefs

Alyoshka is a Baptist who is always reading the New Testament. He sometimes quotes Scripture about suffering for the cause of Christ. Alyoshka's selfless giving and positive attitude despite his wrongful imprisonment baffle Shukhov — after all, confessing to be a Baptist entitles a man to 25 years of incarceration. Toward the end of the novel, Alyoshka and Shukhov have a conversation about God and heaven and hell (Shukhov says he doesn't believe in the latter two.) Alyoshka says he's glad to be in prison because it keeps his faith strong, like the apostle Paul, and he urges Shukhov to concentrate on the eternal rather than the temporal. Though Shukhov fails to see the purpose in his own suffering, he does suggest that a man cannot fail to believe in God upon hearing thunder in the skies.

Other Belief Systems

There is an overarching theme of communist tyranny that forces the events in this story to take place.

Authority Roles

Tyurin, the foreman of Shukhov's gang 104, comes across as a tough, frightening figure until he reveals how he ended up in the camp. His transparency causes the gang to embrace him. At one point when Tyurin is standing up for his men, Shukhov says he's like a father to them. Pavlo, the gang's deputy foreman, is respected for his kindness. The men work hard for him because of this. The Soviet government's inhumane treatment of these men — most imprisoned for no good reason — becomes increasingly clear as readers walk through a day in their lives.


B--tard, bulls---, d--n, h---, son of a b--ch and pr--k appear.



Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at ThrivingFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Solzhenitsyn was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1970.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

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