Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Two New Works on the Russian Revolution by Helen Rappaport

Two Works on the Russian Revolution

The Russian Revolution began in Petrograd (currently called St. Petersburg) in February 1917 with several strikes and demonstrations by workers in the factories.  On March 7, 1917 workers at the largest industrial plant in the city announced  a strike.  The next day rallies were held in observation of International Women's Day.  In massive demonstrations, the women demanded bread.   More and more workers went on strike.  Soon every factory worker in the city was on strike, joined by thousands of office workers, civil servants (it was the capital city) and students joined the demonstrations.  On March 11 Tsar Nicholas ordered the Russian army garrison in the city, some 180,000 soldiers, to quell the demonstrations.  Partially because there were so many women involved,the troops refused to fire into the crowd, many joined the demonstrators.  Most of the army officers fled and a few were shot.  Symbols of Tsarist power were torn down all over the city.  Tsar Nicholas arrived in the city on March 15 and was at once advised to resign by his ministers.  On March 21 Nicholas and his family were placed under house arrest.  On March 16 a provisional government was announced.  From these events the revolt spread all over the country, before it was over millions were dead and in the regimes that were to follow millions more were killed, died in wars, or starved.   (data found in numerous sources including these to books)

The Romanov Sisters (2014) tells the story of what should have been a very nice family of country gentry, the father doting on his four daughters, his son and his wife with little interest in the greater world. Instead the father was the autocratic ruler of a huge country, which he had no capacity to rule.His son and heir was a hemophiliac.  They fell under the spell of a sinister faith healer.  The daughters were kept as immature as possible, having no conception of real life. As they aged they had fantasy romances with Army officers, they would  all have been prime prizes in the European Royalty Marriage Market had they lived to maturity.  Rappaport, using letters, diaries and other newly found materials does a good job of individualizing each girl. We know their daily routines,surrounded by servants and tutors.  We are there when the three older girls train as nurses during WWI.  The children die to young to have developed independent personalities.We are there when they are held captive and eventually executed.  Other than who they were, they are not of much intrinsic interest.  The book is also the story of their parents marriage, told in numerous books.   This is a very detailed portrait of the last Imperial family.

On July 16, 1918 the family was executed.

I enjoyed this book, at time the story of the girls was a bit less than gripping but I am glad I read The Romanov Sisters.   It was on The New York Times best seller list for 12 weeks.

Caught in the Revolution Petrograd Russia 1917 A World on Edge (forthcoming Feb 2017) focuses on people from other countries who were in Petrograd in February and March 2017.  This includes members of the diplomatic corp, business men, nurses, nannies,  journalists, tourists and even Somerset Maugham.  Much of the concern of the diplomats was on getting food and staying save.  Their were no direct attacks on embassies but life was a challenge.  The diplomats were not in sympathy with the revolution.

The one line in the work that most intrigued me was when Rappaport spoke of the 1000s of French and English nannies put out of work by the revolution.  Many had lost all ties with home and there is a  book waiting to be written about what happened to them.

Rappaport's books are popular history, easy to read.  She focuses on the rich and powerful, maybe too much.

I endorse these books for those into the era, as I am.

The author's very well done webpage has a detailed bio and information about her other books.

Mel u

I received review copies of both of these books.


Nancy said...

Should I have time in the near future, I would like to read The Romanov Sisters. I heard about it in the past, too. Right now, I'm making up for lost time, reading as many short stories as I could in a week. :)

Mel u said...

Nancy Cudis, the book is a very good family history. Thanks very much for your comment