Everyone knows about the defeated Hungarian revolution of 1956, but few know the details. Although the rebellion does not start until a hundred pages into the book, this long preamble is essential because it explains why the revolution occurred and why it happened when it did. The book then becomes a day-by-day account of the revolution, which ultimately failed because there was no single individual in charge who could have struck a deal with the Soviet Union.
Sebestyen also examines the charge that the West encouraged the revolution, but then abandoned the Hungarians when the Soviet tanks moved in. Nothing is simple in this story: loyalties are switched, appalling betrayals are committed, and in all of it, many of the most steadfast rebels declare themselves still to be good and faithful Communists. The account of the aftermath is disappointingly short and sketchy; I would have liked to read more about the diaspora of Hungarian refugees that enriched so many Western countries.
Although there are several minor errors in non-Hungarian matters, this book would be a valuable source for any writer planning a novel about the Hungarian revolution.