Red Plenty: Inside the Fifties' Soviet Dream, By Francis Spufford

Dreamers of the world, united

As odd as it sounds today, there was a time in the late Fifties when it seemed as though the USSR, freed from Stalin's authoritarian grip, would beat capitalism at its own game, and socialists around the world allowed themselves to dream of a futuristic utopia.

In Red Plenty, the historian Francis Spufford weaves fact and fiction to conjure the moment when communism was in the ascendant. The book is rigorously researched and inventively conceived, but the author, like the Marxist mathematicians whose stories he tells, often gets bogged down in the dull fine print of the planned economy. Cold War enthusiasts will be enthralled, but casual readers get little (surplus) value for their money.