Though the author doesn't underline the impression, his account of Krupskaya's life is a sad one. A declasse noblewoman and tireless party worker, she was married by Lenin, McNeal suggests, at least partly for the benefit of her secretarial and housekeeping talents in Siberian exile. Her early heroes, who included Tolstoy, and the austere ways of the Russian revolutionary intelligentsia are sketched; the intrigues of pre-revolutionary politics are emphasized in their most ludicrous aspect, with Krupskaya as head cryptologist. What is sad is not Lenin's affair with Inessa Armand nor his failure to share his political thought with his wife as much as he might have, but the fact that she essentially remained a hack (withal a highly intelligent, sensitive, honest and witty one) without theoretical and practical self-development. This became most poignant when, after Lenin's death, she agreed to suppress his anti-Stalin testament to the Party and then, like the other Bolsheviks was powerless to halt Stalin or his policies. Krupskaya herself was not purged, but forced to sanction the purges. The book is based on extensive research in Russian archival sources, and despite a certain lack of psychological and political subtlety, it is excellent reading for students of the period, of women revolutionaries, and of the Bolshevik Party.