From the Publisher
"For ninety years this story has cried out to be told . . . The final reckoning-like the final movement of a Rachmaninoff concerto-builds to a breathtaking conclusion."
-Minneapolis Star Tribune
"The author's extensive knowledge of Russia allows him to invigorate the narrative with telling details . . . A compelling journey through momentous events that wraps up with a fine, deeply moving finale."
"Passionate yet poised."
In this robust historical set during the Romanov twilight, Alexander (The Kitchen Boy ) chronicles the careers of two emblematic individuals-the real-life Grand Duchess Elisavyeta ("Ella"), sister of Alexandra, the last tsarina, and the fictional Pavel, a young revolutionary. The author's extensive knowledge of Russia allows him to invigorate the narrative with telling details that bring the aristocrat Ella, who eventually became an Orthodox saint, convincingly to life. His depictions of workers' miseries, from the breadlines to sausage made from cat, are especially strong. Pavel takes part in key events affecting Ella-such as the planning for her husband's assassination-as well as in the street violence that metastasizes into the Bolshevik Revolution. Quick-cutting between the two characters' perspectives gives readers the opposing viewpoints of nobility and proletariat, emphasizing the obliviousness of each group to the other. As in Doctor Zhivago , coincidence abounds and some scenes and themes call to mind that classic, but this is a compelling journey through momentous events that wraps up with a fine, deeply moving finale. 6-city author tour. (May) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
School Library Journal
As in his nationally best-selling The Kitchen Boyand Rasputin's Daughter, Alexander here melds historical fact with fictional speculation. Chapters alternate between the perspectives of Pavel, a peasant, and Elisavyeta (Ella), the German-born granddaughter of Queen Victoria, sister-in-law to Czar Nicholas and the privileged wife of Grand Duke Sergei Aleksandrovich, a Romanov. In 1905, czarist soldiers fire at a group of peaceful protesters, and Pavel's young bride is among the murdered. Determined to avenge her death and eliminate the aristocracy, Pavel becomes a dedicated revolutionary. When he assassinates Sergei, Ella's life takes a dramatic turn: she sells her worldly possessions, establishes a convent, and perseveres by helping Moscow's poor. Then, seized in the night, she comes face to face with Pavel in the distant woods of Siberia. Pavel's accounts, though sometimes bogged down by stock revolutionary phrases, reveal how ideology as well as riches can blind individuals. Similarities in Ella's and Pavel's situations provide one of many discussion points, which will draw the interest of book clubs; public libraries will also want copies for historical fiction fans.
Kathy Piehl Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information