Caught in the Revolution Summary and Reviews

Caught in the Revolution

Petrograd, Russia, 1917 - A World on the Edge

by Helen Rappaport

Caught in the Revolution by Helen Rappaport

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Book Summary

From the bestselling author of The Romanov Sisters, Caught in the Revolution is Helen Rappaport's masterful telling of the outbreak of the Russian Revolution through eye-witness accounts left by foreign nationals who saw the drama unfold.

Between the first revolution in February 1917 and Lenin's Bolshevik coup in October, Petrograd (the former St Petersburg) was in turmoil – felt nowhere more keenly than on the fashionable Nevsky Prospekt. There, the foreign visitors who filled hotels, clubs, bars and embassies were acutely aware of the chaos breaking out on their doorsteps and beneath their windows.

Among this disparate group were journalists, diplomats, businessmen, bankers, governesses, volunteer nurses and expatriate socialites. Many kept diaries and wrote letters home: from an English nurse who had already survived the sinking of the Titanic; to the black valet of the US Ambassador, far from his native Deep South; to suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst, who had come to Petrograd to inspect the indomitable Women's Death Battalion led by Maria Bochkareva.

Helen Rappaport draws upon this rich trove of material, much of it previously unpublished, to carry us right up to the action – to see, feel and hear the Revolution as it happened to an assortment of individuals who suddenly felt themselves trapped in a "red madhouse."

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. An engaging if challenging look at a country's collapse with worldwide repercussions. Informed general readers will enjoy this glimpse into history; scholars will declare it a definitive study." - Library Journal

"An occasionally scattershot but undeniably valuable history of the Russian Revolution." - Kirkus

"Rappaport (The Romanov Sisters) adopts an eyewitness approach to the Russian Revolution of 1917 in this fun, fast-paced, yet frivolous work." - Publishers Weekly

"Illuminating ... Rappaport has collected a wonderful array of observations ... delightful and enlightening." - The London Times

"In Caught in the Revolution, Rappaport unearths some unexpected and fascinating sources that, through their links to more familiar realms, bring an absorbing period of history closer to home." - Guy Pewsey, The Standard

The information about Caught in the Revolution shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Reader Reviews

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Jill S. (Eagle, ID)

Caught in a revolution
This well researched book provides a different perspective of the Russian revolution. Rappaport's account depicts the mayhem, chaos and murder that takes place in the early 1900's. Rappaport provides a different perspective of the Russian revolution, and history buffs will enjoy this book.

Charlene M. (Murrells Inlet, SC)

Caught in the Revolution
Helen Rappaport has captured the beauty of Petrograd, the exquisite lifestyle of the foreign ambassador's and the opulence of the Russian aristocracy, and the anguish of the working class in "Caught in the Revolution" through her masterful use of diaries and letters of people living in Petrograd, Russia in 1917.
I have a Russian neighbor whom I was able to talk to about the Revolution. Helen Rappaport's Caught in the Revolution is a book everyone should read. I anxiously await her next book.

Todd E. (Atlanta, GA)

When Leadership Fails
This was not an easy book for me to read. Rappaport's many sources trace in particular and sometimes horrific detail the hunger, the cold, the loss of civic order in Petrograd in 1917, and ultimately, the random and intentional violence on a city-wide scale as the Russian revolution gathers momentum. So quickly did stability crumble. So incredulous were the country's leaders about the underlying tensions growing out of decades of autocratic rule and the costs of staying in the First World War. And, of course, I wondered whether such unrest could happen here. I appreciated Rappaport following her sources lives after their assignments to Russia, sometimes into oblivion. She effectively expressed, for me her, compassion for them.

Marjorie H. (Woodstock, GA)

The World Pivots
As a history buff I've never understood how people could find history boring. Helen Rappaport is one of the best history authors I've read and "Caught in the Revolution" does not disappoint. Having read her two books "The Romanov Sisters" and "The Last Days of the Romanovs" - "Caught in the Revolution" is the other view of the days of the revolution of 1917. Diplomats, journalists, business owners, families - all from other countries witnessed and recorded the overthrow of the Russian monarchy. It is through their eyes that we see the mayhem, murder and destruction that took place.

The first revolution that took place in Feb. of '17 aimed at creating a fair government amidst the chaos of everyone fighting to organize a practically impossible amount of people. Hundreds of prisoners - many innocent - were released from prisons. The brutal police and army were slaughtered in the streets, along with citizens of every age. The populace was starving and desperate. Once the mayhem had produced no legitimate government, the Bolshiveks moved in and the violence and bloodshed only escalated.

This is not a pretty story, but one that speaks volumes in our time. Russia was forever changed. I highly recommend this book.

Sheryl M. (Marietta, GA)

Many Partied While Chaos Reigned All Around
Helen Rappaport has vast experience and knowledge about the era of the Russian Revolutions and the events that led to the ultimate breakdown and overthrow of the Czar and his government. She has used knowledge gained in preparation of a number of other books about this period plus new primary sources from foreign diplomats, journalists and curious observers who were serving or visiting in Petrograd in 1916-17, to write a fascinating and extremely readable book.

"Caught in the Revolution" provides an up close vision of almost unbelievable extremes in early 20th century Russian society: peasants from the countryside and factory workers standing in the city's soup lines and sleeping in whatever shack or lean-to might lend shelter during a brutal winter; Russian soldiers that avoided slaughter on the battlefields of World War I and made it back to the capital; an elite aristocracy and nobility as well as members of a diplomatic corps of European and the U.S. ambassadors and ministers who all led lives of lavish partying in palace homes and shopping in the most elegant shops on Nevsky Prospekt. The actions of the latter indicated a complete obliviousness to the desperate lives of the poor in less elegant, but nearby streets.

Wives of the diplomats prepared bandages and clothing for the Russian soldiers still in battle and tended the wounded and dying ones who managed to make it back to Petrograd. Hospital facilities tended to be ones set up by individuals from Europe and staffed by volunteer nurses who came from various war fronts. Observers from the West, including the well-known suffragette Emma Pankhurst and novelist and short story writer Somerset Maugham (among many others), arrived to add to the chaos and dissension in the overcrowded city.

Less apparent on the streets, but just as active behind the scenes were the various heads of factions which maneuvered among themselves to seize leadership of opposition to the status quo and determine the future direction and next government of Russia.

Finally, not to be over-looked, is Rasputin, the mystic-healer-spiritualist who was universally disliked by all but the Romanovs who sought his skills in treating their youngest child and only son (whose future was so closely tied to the survival of the Romanov dynasty) who was a hemophiliac.

Helen Rappaport sorts out the chaos and establishes vivid and memorable images of each of the players "Caught in the Revolution." Her non-fiction narrative has nothing in common with dry textbooks most readers of this review will remember and reads more like popular and compelling fiction. More people would love the study of history if more writers had Rappaport's skills that make this book such an engaging, but thoroughly documented read.

Lee M. (Creve Coeur, MO)

The Other Side
I finished this book last night and I'm still speechless. We have all read about the Russian Revolution of 1917, but not this way, from the non Russian observers. And you are not reading, your are there! Ms. Rappaport started collecting eyewitness and written accounts of this monumental period, many years ago. She somehow, phenomenally has gathered these in a book that gives you the impression you are actually watching and reacting to real events. Daily, sometimes hourly, you feel the emotions, be they horrific, amusing, sad, or surprising. Many kudos for amassing this information, for compiling it in a cohesive, and unbelievably enjoyable side of history seldom, if ever, seen or published. Bravo!

...19 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Helen Rappaport Author Biography

Photo: Stephen Bristow

Helen Rappaport studied Russian at Leeds University and is a specialist in Russian and nineteenth-century women's history. Her books include A Magnificent Obsession: Victoria, Albert, and the Death That Changed the British Monarchy and The Last Days of the Romanovs. She lives in Oxford.

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