As a lawyer and budding historian, I found Philippe Sands‘ idea of telling the story of international criminal law through the biographies of Hersch Lauterpacht and Raphael Lemkin interesting.
But the book East West Street is overloaded with the irrelevant family history of the author’s grandfather as well as countless unimportant details from the protagonists’ lives. It may be meticulous research to find out at which house who lived when, who his neighbors were, whom he dated and what concerts he went to. But it’s not important.
A history of ideas would have been more interesting than a hotchpotch of details.
And, if he picks Ukraine as the backdrop for that legal discussion, why does Sands not mention the Holodomor once? Of course, Lauterpacht and Lemkin were more relevant to the Nuremberg Trials, but the Holocaust clearly doesn’t pose the tricky question of what constitutes a genocide. The Holodomor would have done.