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Alexander of Russia: Napoleon's Conqueror (Grove Great Lives Series) Paperback – January 24, 2003


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Troyat, the French biographer of Tolstoy and Gogol, turns his attention here to Alexander I, the young, liberal czar who in later years became a religious recluse, muzzled journalists, increased police surveillance and felt disenchanted and melancholy even after defeating Napoleon. Troyat demonstrates that Alexander drowned himself in the cause of empire in order to forget the patricide that brought him to power. PW called this a "briskly moving, richly illustrated, flesh-and-blood portrait."
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French
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Product Details

  • Series: Grove Great Lives Series
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press (January 24, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802139493
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802139498
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,726,974 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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This book reads like a novel, and is hard to put down.
Me reads
So we owe a huge debt of gratitude to biographers like Henri Troyat who labour to produce informed, three dimensional accounts of their complex subjects.
keetmom
This includes Catherine the Great, Alexander’s wife Elizabeth, and Metternich of Austria.
Nathan

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Robert E. Murena Jr. on October 21, 2005
Format: Paperback
Henri Troyat's "Alexander of Russia" stands as one of the best accounts of the life of the man who beat Napoleon and helped restore peace to Europe. In the Early 19th century Alexander was rivaled only Napoleon in terms of esteem yet today men like the Prussian general Blucher Furst von Metternich and lord Wellington seem to get far more recognition in our modern histories. Perhaps this is because Alexander was a Russian but perhaps it is because we don't know exactly how to feel about this sovereign who wavered between enlightened despot ruling by divine right, religious man and liberal thinker. These things all seem incongruous for a single man let alone a ruler of the largest country of Europe. Troyat's work helps illustrate the man and also helps us to reconcile the man who helped to define 19th century politics and geography.

The book reads much like the life of Alexander. In the early part of the book it is centered around how Catherine the Great felt about her grandson and the political climate during her reign and the reign of her son Paul. This portion is rather dull from a literary standpoint although necessary to understanding the man. In these years he is taught by French enlightenment thinker Laharpe who helps mold Alexander's liveral sentiments. In 1801 when Paul is murdered to the period of the Congress of Vienna the book takes a much more active tone and is written brilliantly. Alexander naturally fel some amount of shame for his fathers murder although he only had implied responsibility for it. Alexander's interaction with Napoleon at Tilsit is very interesting and the account of Napoleon's Russian campaign is very well done. Further the Allied advance on Paris, led by an Alexander who felt that god was impelling him to act, too is great.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Don J. Voss on January 17, 2008
Format: Paperback
This is a book you can get totally into. The author has the ability to insert conversations into a historically authentic narative that are not only believable but are probably remarkably close to what was actually said. I have immersed myself into different passages over and over, it is that good. You will not only learn history from the Russian perspective, and about Czar Alexander, you will better understand modern politics. I believe the czar spoke for many politicians when he said a leader must do many things that the heart condemns. As a bonus, you get an excellent take on Napolean as well. The author, Henri Troyat, has yet another winner
in his long string of books. I also recommend Catherine the Great (Alexander's grandmother) and Peter the Great. Especially Peter the Great. Prepare to be shocked and amazed by Peter. He may have been the first "Communist", because he believed in putting the state first before the individual with a vengeance. Eminent Domain could have been started by this guy.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 28, 1998
Format: Paperback
Henri Troyat's "Alexander of Russia" (1980)serves as a nice sequel to his "Catherine the Great" (1977). Alexander I, Emporer of all the Russias (1801-1825) succeeded Catherine the Great (1762-1796) to the throne of the Russian Empire separated only by the brief reign of Alexander's father, Paul (1796-1801). Troyat's presentation of Alexander is a wonderful, vivid portrait of man known to history as the "enigmatic Tsar." Alexander had been provided an "enlightenment education" by his grandmother Catherine the Great. He had a fondness for liberty and a hatred of despotism and serfdom. Yet Alexander was frustrated in his hopes for reform of the Russian nation throughout the entirety of his reign.
Napoleon came to power in France and proceeded to conquer much of Europe. Suddenly, France, the traditional ally of the Russian Empire was an enemy. Napoleon invaded Russia in 1812 but was defeated. Alexander then played a major role in the restoration of Europe following the Napoleonic Wars. Meanwhile, reform was postponed.
Troyat has a lively writing style that holds the interests of the reader all way to the end of the book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By D. A. Johnson on March 21, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This has been around for a while now and that is very good, given the paucity of good books in English about this fascinating Tsar.

Having said that, I it seemed to me that this is a bit lighter than it could be. Maybe it is due to a more popular style of message or maybe just due to the translation. In any event, this is highly worthwhile.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Henri Troyat was a Russian born author who was schooled and resided in France for most of his life. He is the author of numerous books and novels including several biographies on notable Russian historical figures. His 1980 biography on Alexander I of Russia, originally entitled Alexandre I: Le Sphinx du Nord, was translated by Joan Pinkham and published in 1982. The work includes a bibliography sectioned into primary and secondary sources, a chronology of events in Alexander’s life paralleled with corresponding world events, one picture of Alexander I, and one map of the Western Russian Empire circa 1815.

Taking in account the difficulty in attempting a biography on any historical figure, an author must carefully select his or her sources in order to craft narrative educational, accurate, entertaining, and with purpose. As a novelist, as well as an historian, Troyat beautifully presents his narrative in an enthralling fashion that keeps his reader interested. With a clearly recurring theme, it becomes evident that Troyat’s purpose is to present Alexander I as a confused and enigmatic leader. Alexander is shown torn between a strong belief in liberty while ruling the most autocratic nation in Europe. Troyat has his main character portrayed in a similar light to classic heroes of antiquity, who are destined for great success followed by tragedy. Even if the reader is aware of the ending, they will find themselves turning each page hopeful Alexander’s rule will be a triumph of all he wished for from his youth.

As a historian Troyat relies heavily on the memoirs and letters of the major characters. This includes Catherine the Great, Alexander’s wife Elizabeth, and Metternich of Austria.
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