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Rasputin Hardcover – February 6, 2014
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Praise for Frances Welch: "Frances Welch combines historical insight with a novelistic flair for character." --Evening Standard
About the Author
Frances Welch is the author of The Russian Court at Sea (2011), Romanov Fantasy (2008) and Sydney Gibbes: Tutor to the Children of the Last Tsar (2004), all published by Short Books. She lives in Aldeburgh, Suffolk.
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The author of this book provided exactly what I was looking for - this is an engaging, fast-paced overview of the man and his times. The facts are crazy enough to hold the reader's interest and were presented without any tedious description of how the government itself was laid out. I learned a lot about the historical period Rasputin moved in, without getting down down in boring politics. Politics are here, of course, but revealed as functions of individual personalities, many of which were highly quirky and dysfunctional!
This was an easy read and introduces the reader to a fascinating era. It's a great starting point to learn about Rasputin and his times. And proves the adage that "truth is stranger than fiction."
Nicholas and Alexandra. Even the actions of Nicholas and Alexandra themselves probably contributed to their own downfall. Evil exists in every era but people quite often unwittingly play into the hands of that evil. Very sad to think that a whole family was brutally shot to death.
It is a quick read. Even for those who know the story there is new (or at least new to me) material. The book is not footnoted so it is unclear how much some assertions are interpretative. Some are significant, for instance, did Yussoupov (one of the assassins) discuss a cure for his homosexuality with Rasputin on an earlier occasion? Some are interesting but not so significant, for instance, did the Romanov daughters keep lockets with Rasputin's picture throughout their incarceration?
The last pages were of the most interest. They capsulize what became of the main people in Rasputin's life. While most of the nobility perished in the Revolution, Rasputin's assassins were (safely) exiled before the empire's ultimate fall. Rasputin's family, considered wealthy peasants, did not fare better than the nobles although his daughter survived until 1977 in the US in ways that are as amazing as (but very different from) those of her father.
This is a light and spicy overview for those with general interest in the topic. For those who want more depth I recommend Rasputin: The Untold Story.
Let me preface this review by saying that I approached this book essentially no knowledge of the history of Russia, its nobility, the Revolution, the Romanovs, or Rasputin. I can't critique this book on its accuracy even a little bit. I will also say that I don't read a lot of nonfiction, and when I do, it is rarely biographies. This is not a something I would have picked off a shelf at a book store. Wholly outside of my realm.
With that being said, this was a quick and engaging read. I feel like the author did well in making it read like a story, rather than a litany of fact [or at least, as close to fact as possible; nearly all the sources, even and especially the first-hand sources are unreliable]. At times, it felt almost novel-like. Quotes from letters, telegrams, diary entries, and memoirs are used with great effect, and are worked into accompanying text smoothly. A few times, it would be a bit confusing because the sheer amount of names/people involved were hard to keep track of, especially when they weren't mentioned for long stretches and would pop up again without a reminder of who they were and how they were related to the goings-on.
Much of what actually occurred during Rasputin's life can't be known for certain; as I said, even the first-hand accounts are unreliable. Everyone involved with the man, it seems, had some reason or another to twist facts or tell lies to suit their own agenda. This biography, though, seems like it has been well-researched, taken motive into consideration, and come to the likeliest of conclusions. It seems balanced and offers multiple views.
The pictures, which are scattered throughout, are absolutely fabulous. They're all black and white, captioned, and not gathered in a center photo section like is done with many books. They give a lot of dimension to the words and are a really great addition.
I found this book really intriguing, well-written, interesting, and couldn't put it down, to my surprise; like I said, this is fairly new territory for me, and I didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I did.
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From the Wikpedia article on Grigori Rasptuin...Read more