We the Living by Ayn Rand was one of the first picks at the inception of our book club. At the time I had not started reading Wilkie Collins yet, so my favorite book to date was Atlas Shrugged, which was just too long for the book club to finish in 4-6 weeks, and we didn’t want to scare anyone off with something that monumental. By this time, I had collected several of Ayn’s novels and was eager to read her again. Since this was the first book of Ayn’s writing career, I chose this one off my shelf.
While this is fiction, it is also the story of a woman immigrating to the US from Russia and that is Ayn’s story. This is as close to an autobiography as she gets and I was very interested in getting to know more about her. It realistically portrays life in Russia and I came away from this book very thankful for the life that I live and the freedoms we have.
I had read Atlas Shrugged a few years earlier so I had an expectation about her writing and style. Interesting enough, in We the Living, Ayn’s style and her English had not evolved to the level of her later books. Ayn’s underdeveloped grasp of the English language at that point in her career was brought up by the book club, none of them had ever read her books. With 10 being the best read, our average rating as a book club was 6.5. I personally gave it a 7.
I’m on the fence with recommending this one. If you’re interested in Ayn Rand, where she came from and the struggles she endured, and if you get beyond her less than developed style of writing, then you will probably get something out of this book. This is a serious book, it’s not light reading. While her real life story is inspirational, the book is more tragic.
If you’re courageous enough to dive into this one, then go to your quiet place and start reading.