6 Knowledgeable Things about Adam Hochschild’s “King Leopold’s Ghost”

King Leopold’s Ghost

by Adam Hochschild

Nikki’s Rating: 6 out of 10

Summary: A meticulously researched book focused on the exploitation of the Congo by King Leopold. A detailed account of key players and how abuse and slavery were able to continue for years with the world none the wiser. An honest, disturbing look at how colonialism continues to negatively impact the world today.

6 Knowledgeable Things about Adam Hochschild’s “King Leopold’s Ghost”

(May Contain Spoilers)

1. Educational

This book was a huge eye-opener. Nowhere in any formal education was there mention of the massacre that happened in the Congo, or anywhere else in Africa, due to colonialism. As in everywhere else in history, the victors write the history books and conveniently omit any negative images of themselves.

2. Citing Sources

Hochschild did his research diligently. His pages of notes and bibliography provide ample evidence and support of his narrative of what happened in the Congo under King Leopold’s rule.

3. Characters

In “King Leopold’s Ghost,” Hochschild does an amazing job of bringing his historical characters to life. He includes key life events to help readers understand their motivations and values that may have impacted their decisions. However, there is a lack of African voices and Hochschild makes note of this and gives valid reasons why this is so.

4. The Atrocities

While not giving traumatizing details, Hochschild clearly paints a picture of the horror many Congolese people experienced at the hands of their European suppressors. From forced slavery in terrible conditions to being used as target practice, King Leopold encouraged a holocaust in the name of greed.

5. Silence

“King Leopold’s Ghost” includes an explanation of how these atrocities were not made public and how King Leopold was able to manipulate others in power and the media to keep the silence of the massacre that was occurring.

6. Impact

One of the strongest points Hochschild presents in “King Leopold’s Ghost” is how colonialism continues to have an impact in the Congo today. Due to American and European investments, these governments continue interfering with democracy in the Congo going so far as in 1961, providing the means to assassinate Lumumba, an elected prime minister.

What are your favorite things about “King Leopold’s Ghost”?


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10 Beloved Things about Ruta Sepetys’s “Between Shades of Gray”

“Between Shades of Gray”

by Ruta Sepetys

Nikki’s Rating: 10 out of 10

Summary: June 14, 1941, Stalin begins his deportation of people in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia who are deemed anti-Soviet. 15-year-old Lina is taken in the middle of the night with her family. Forced into labor camps with hundreds of others, her family must stay together to survive the harsh conditions of the Arctic circle and the brutalities of the NKVD officers.


10 Beloved Things about Ruta Sepetys’s “Between Shades of Gray”

(May Contain Spoilers)

1. Real Experiences

While the characters are fictional in “Between Shades of Gray” all the experiences were inspired by true events and situations that survivors experienced. Absolutely horrifying and touching!

2. Educational

Up until reading this book, I was totally ignorant on Stalin’s cleansing of the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. “Between Shades of Gray” was an eye-opener for me about what happened and also how it was kept secret for so long.

3. Realistic

Ruta Sepetys does an amazing job of capturing the experiences of the survivors she interviewed to write “Between Shades of Gray.” Lina seemed so real, it felt like I was reading a diary.

4. Different Reactions

We all react to stress, terror, and death differently. Septeys captured these differences effortlessly. Some characters became complacent or even worked with the NKVD officers. Others became angry and would take out their frustration on other victims. Most did what they had to for survival while still trying to help their fellow prisoners.

5. Emotional

“Between Shades of Gray” is a powerful novel and so emotional. You will cry, you will smile, your heart will break and then be lifted up. This novel is absolutely beautiful!

6. The Writing

Ruta Sepetys kept the writing elegant and simple, there are no unnecessary words or sentences. Easy to read but effectively well-written.

7. Disturbing

While reading “Between Shades of Gray” was difficult due to the subject matter, Ruta Sepetys does an amazing job of allowing the reader to comprehend the trauma that the victims went through without actually traumatizing the reader. Yes, the novel is disturbing and unpleasant to read at times, but there are no detailed, bloody torture scenes.

8. Strength in Humanity

One of the strongest things about this novel, is not the stories of what the victims survived, but how they survived together. The victims coming together, stealing food and other items needed for each other. Carrying one another when one was too weak or injured. The NKVD soldiers who took risks trying to help, regardless of the consequences.

9. Capacity for Cruelty

Humans are capable of such cruelty and during Stalin’s reign, the NKVD soldiers committed some serious atrocities. Sepetys includes many examples of the needless death, suffering, humiliation, and pain the victims endured.

10. Love

Lina’s letter in the end, “My husband, Andrius…” made me sob. Love found even in the worst of times.

What are your favorite things about Ruta Sepetys’s “Between Shades of Gray”?


Be Authentic. Be Unique. Be You.

As always, thank you for reading. I would love to hear from you so feel free to contact me or comment below. And if you would like to support this blog and/or my paintings please become my patron.