Braithwaite was British ambassador to the Soviet Union and then to Russia from Fall 1988 to May 1992. He is a man of brusque, elegant opinions and prose, with a quick, self-deprecating sense of humor. He arrived when the axle of Mikhail Gorbachev's reform was beginning to creak and crack over the deep, hard ruts of Soviet reality and the East European regimes were nearing collapse. By this time, he frankly confesses, his country no longer had much of a role to play in the unfolding East-West drama. Still, his third-party insights into the Cold War's endgame, particularly German reunification, are very useful. Best in the memoir, however, are his portraits of the Soviet officials with whom he dealt, the revealing, often amusing descriptions of his travels in the country, and the running account of his encounters amid the dizzying events of these years. The last includes extended reportage of the August 1991 putsch.