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
A grim follow-up to Alexander's other novels about the twilight of the Romanovs (Rasputin's Daughter, 2006, etc.). In this reverent account of the life of Grand Duchess Elisavyeta (known as Ella), her point of view alternates with that of Pavel, a peasant turned Red turned Gulag detainee, whose path crossed Ella's at crucial points in her doomed existence. A German granddaughter of Queen Victoria, Ella marries Sergei, the uncle of Tsar Nikolai II. Ella's sister Alexandra weds the Tsar. Grand Duke Sergei, a homosexual, rebuffs his wife's affections-the childless couple adopts Sergei's niece and nephew. "Alicky and Nicky," Tsar and Tsaritsa, are mostly offstage, although Nicky's loosening grip on his realm is all too apparent. In 1905, a large contingent of peasants and clerics marches peaceably on the Palace to beg the Tsar for economic relief. Soldiers fire into the unarmed crowd, killing hundreds, including Pavel's pregnant wife. In despair, Pavel joins the revolutionaries. An attempt on Sergei's life is thwarted by Pavel's reluctance to kill Ella and the children. But an assassin's bomb eventually catches Sergei alone. Ella forswears her opulent life to found a religious order. She establishes a convent hospital in Moscow to serve the poor. Pavel secretly trails her, marveling at her selflessness and daring as she ventures into Moscow's seamier slums. Just as conditions for the underclass are improving-Nicky's ministers have instituted reforms while wiping out thousands of communists-along comes World War I. During the February 1917 uprising, Ella's convent narrowly escapes destruction, but she rejects all offers of asylum and continues to aid the war-wounded, sick and hungry. After theOctober 1917 revolution, Ella's arrest is inevitable. Pavel follows Ella to Siberia as her guard, and they exchange their life stories, but death is on the horizon. Although the regime's free fall is vividly brought to life, the two principals are more archetypal than real. Still, a moving testament to a saintly woman's sad end. Agent: Marly Rusoff/Marly Rusoff & Associates