Summary and book reviews of Caught in the Revolution by Helen Rappaport

Caught in the Revolution

Petrograd, Russia, 1917 - A World on the Edge

by Helen Rappaport

Caught in the Revolution by Helen Rappaport X
Caught in the Revolution by Helen Rappaport
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2017, 448 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2018, 544 pages

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Helen Rappaport draws upon this rich trove of material, much of it previously unpublished, to carry us right up to the action – to see, feel and hear the Revolution as it happened to an assortment of individuals who suddenly felt themselves trapped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

1

'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...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

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).

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Media Reviews

The New York Times Book Review
Splendid . . . By confining herself to foreigners in Russia's capital, Rappaport takes a necessarily narrow slice of revolutionary history. But the stories these witnesses tell is endlessly fascinating.

The Washington Times
One of the great strengths of this book is the way in which the unheralded and the celebrated mingle in its pages . . . A mosaic of truth which no fictional one could outdo.

The Times (UK)
Illuminating ... Rappaport has collected a wonderful array of observations ... delightful and enlightening.

The Evening Standard (UK)
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.

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

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

Booklist
Rappaport’s elegantly detailed writing shapes and pulls together excerpts from letters, diaries, articles, and more, quoted throughout, creating the immediacy and energy of history in the making: terrifying, brutal, and unforgettable.

Library Journal
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.

Reader Reviews

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 ...   Read More

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 ...   Read More

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-...   Read More

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 ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

St. Petersburg by Other Names

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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