Cover Image: The Showman

The Showman

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Note: I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Thank you, NetGalley and publishers.

The Showman is the story of President Zelensky’s road to election and the first days, weeks and months of the war. It’s a complicated portrait of the man himself, the country, and the other important personalities involved. Along the way, he changed from a man who wanted to make everyone laugh to a leader who had to make almost impossible choices and inspire not only his country but also the world.

Was this review helpful?

While the subject matter is distressing, this book was well-written and flows easily. Yes, the names are hard, but Shuster repeats titles when moving between people so that you can know who is who. Because of news stories over the past two years, I was able to recognize many of the towns and cities referenced here. Zelensky has evolved since his early days into a formidable leader, who has earned the world’s respect. On the other side of the conflict is the sub-human Putin, a despicable waste of oxygen. I hope US congressional leaders will read this and learn.

Was this review helpful?

🌟 4.5 stars! 🌟

Similar to what another reviewer shared, the social media chatter surrounding this book had me expecting to read a piece of pro-Russian propaganda. What I found, however, was a balanced, conversational, incredibly thoughtful piece of reporting. If Simon Shuster is trying to advance the Russian agenda, then he REALLY needs a new job.

Given an almost unparalleled level of access to Ukrainian President Voldomyr Zelensky and senior members of the Ukrainian government during the first year(ish) of Russia's unjustified invasion, Shuster managed to make me feel like I was there living the events with him. He captured the sense of (almost) camaraderie felt in the government bunker in the days immediately post-invasion, the devastation of the war crimes committed in Bucha, and the subtle but unmistakeable changes seen in Zelensky and others as months of war chipped away at a nation's collective sense of humanity. The Showman is one of the more well-sourced books I've ever read (and I read a ton of non-fiction). This level of access to the key players in such a seismic world event is remarkable, and I think the fact that Zelensky's team trusted Shuster with this responsibility is indicative of their confidence in his impartiality.

This level of access means that Shuster is able to write about Ukraine's war effort from a lens that few others have. At times, this means that he shows moments that would typically be kept from public view. Conflict between government officials, crises of conscience among leaders, serious doubts about strategy, and egos growing faster than seats at the table can accommodate happen in every nation, whether or not a reporter is there to write about it. Shuster is clear-eyed about the challenges Ukraine will face in the years ahead, but he is also very obviously hopeful for the nation.

It is clear that Shuster believes Russian President Vladimir Putin is a war criminal with little sense of moral conscience. It is also clear that he sees Ukraine's path to victory as challenging and Zelensky as a leader experiencing growing pains as he moves from a TV star to a world leader. These are dialectics that seem hard for many folks to hold during a time of such intense political strife, but I believe that becoming comfortable with them is essential to creating a sustainable democracy (whether that be in Ukraine, the US, or elsewhere).

If you're someone who knows a lot about the war in Ukraine, someone who knows very little, or someone who thinks "I really wish I understood that better," The Showman by Simon Shuster is an excellent, interesting place to start! And, if you're someone who is compelled to ignore this book due to claims of the author being a Russian asset, I urge you to read it with an open mind instead. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

(Thanks to William Morrow and Netgalley for the advance copy of this book!)

Was this review helpful?

Before reading The Showman by Simon Shuster, I came across various social media posts which portrayed Shuster as a Russian asset. After finishing the book, I can confirm that if he is a Russian asset, then he is terrible at it.

The Showman chronicles the rise of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky mostly centered on his time at war with Russia but also on his transition from actor to politician. Shuster makes all of this feel rather personal. He met with nearly everyone in the book for interviews and he is often willing to say what he thinks about what he witnesses. I am not kidding about the Russian asset part. Shuster is willing to examine the good and bad parts of all of his characters with the exception of Putin. Let there be no mistake, Shuster thinks what Russia is doing is criminal and the atrocities all go back to Putin.

However, no one will confuse this as a puff piece praising Zelensky as a saint and fearless warrior. There are numerous places where Shuster points out his mistakes, miscalculations, and a worry about who Zelensky might become when this is all said and done. Zelensky is human after all and is learning to be a politician under the worst of circumstances. This doesn't mean he gets a free pass from the press, though.

The story tells itself but Shuster's voice enhances the book and makes it feel like a conversation. I pictured myself sitting at a bar hearing about all of this from an old friend who just came back from overseas. I highly recommend it.

(This book was provided as an advance copy by Netgalley and William Morrow.)

Was this review helpful?

An amazing real-time account of the early days of the Ukraine invasion by Russia. An unnamed journalist is given access to Ukraine President Zelensky, his wife, and closest advisors as they hunker down in Kiev, as they visit the battlegrounds of this war, and as they discover who they can trust and who they cannot. Little by little, President Zelensky leaves the conduct of the war to experienced leaders and finds his ongoing role as the "Showman" who must convince the United States and other NATO countries that they must help Ukraine win because Russia is not likely to stop at this one invasion. All of Europe is at risk, and also the United States if Russia succeeds in conquering Ukraine. This is a brilliant account of a comedian who ran for president, won, and is now facing choices that puts the entire world at risk if Putin resorts to using his nuclear arsenal. That Zelensky is up to the task is never in doubt as we learn of the personality traits, confirmed by his wife, that made him so successful in his earlier career as a television comedian in both Russia and Ukraine. Read this book. You'll learn more about NATO, politics worldwide, and the high stakes that all of us are facing today!

Was this review helpful?

I found this book very compelling. It was interesting to learn more about the history of the conflict, and the decision making processes.

Was this review helpful?

this was a great book. I've been intrigued how this actor turned national leader has gotten to where he is, but I found that it is based on pure being a good man.

Was this review helpful?