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Helen Rappaport draws upon this rich trove of material, much of it previously unpublished, to carry us right up to the action to see, feel and hear the Revolution as it happened to an assortment of individuals who suddenly felt themselves trapped in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."
'Women are Beginning to Rebel at Standing in Bread Lines'
In November 1916, Arno Dosch-Fleurot, a seasoned journalist working for a popular US daily the New York World had arrived in Petrograd fresh from a gruelling stint covering the Battle of Verdun. A Harvard-trained lawyer, from a prestigious Portland family, he had turned to journalism and had been covering the war since August 1914, when his editor in New York offered what seemed to him the dream ticket: 'Suggest you might like to go to Russia.' But getting there wasn't easy in war-torn Europe; Fleurot had had to cross the Channel to England to pick up a boat from Newcastle to Bergen. This had been followed by a long rail journey through Norway, Sweden and north to the Finnish checkpoint at Torneo, where he had grown frazzled, arguing with customs officials about 'letting [his] typewriter though without paying duty'. As he boarded the train for Petrograd's Finland Station, the...
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 that most readers of this review might remember. The book reads more like popular and compelling fiction. More people would love the study of history if writers had Rappaport's skills that make this book such an engaging but thoroughly documented read.
(Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).
Full Review (754 words).
The subtitle of Caught in the Revolution is Petrograd, Russia, 1917 - A World on the Edge. Petrograd is more familiar to most today as St. Petersburg, a city that saw its name change three times in the 20th century.
It was founded in 1703 during the reign of Peter the Great for geopolitical reasons: he was looking for a way to keep invading armies from Sweden at bay and a strategic defense point close to the north, that provided easy access to the Baltic Sea for trading reasons, seemed like a good option. To counter the Swedes, he commissioned the Peter and Paul Fortress that would form the anchor of the rapidly growing city. Eager to have a city that was modeled after the great European ones, and swayed by Dutch-German influence, the ...
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