Ah yes, Romanovs again.
I was actually reading something else completely (another of my self-imposed classics of the month) but as usual, it became so difficult and excessively long-winded that eventually I found myself putting it away until I might be in the right frame of mind and trough the whole month of April simply took my time to see will I became inspired to pick it up again - I didn't, but than by chance I found this book and voilà gulped it with a greatest pleasure, since I had big passion for everything about Russian history. Actually, I love history in general and more I learn about it, more I realise how much is there to discover. A lifetime is not enough to soak in all the information, memoirs and reassessments. Every now and than, some new information come to the light of the day and we see things from different perspective.
If the title had not already been used elsewhere, this book could have been titled "Gone with the Wind": it describes a particular time in Russian history when all-powerful Romanovs found themselves at the centre of the whirlwind and in a just few short years the life as they knew it was completely swept away, while the main protagonists had to run for their lives, trough ice and snow, sometimes on foot, carrying only a few possessions to avoid arrests and torture. It is a very ambitious saga with decidedly wide task to describe not just main characters we all know (Emperor and his family, Rasputin) but the whole Romanov family with its countless cousins, relatives and the rest of extended family, who they were and what was their role in downfall. In fact, authors don't waste too much space on Nicholas II, his wife Alix or any of people who were already subjects of other biographies, instead they relished stories from different palaces, other perspectives and other Romanovs who were also there, sometimes in completely different part of the empire. What happened to them, how they reacted to the political turbulence and what they did as penniless refugees is the subject of this book.
At first, it does feel a bit complex, because there are so many of Romanovs and sometimes its almost too difficult to remember who is who (if I remember correctly, at certain point we are dealing with 65 individuals) but once you get the grip on a story and Bolsheviks finally appear like some unstoppable deluge, its actually impossible to put the book down. Its pointless to be clever in hindsight and claim any of them should have known or done differently - for the longest time these people were on pedestal and never expected life around them will explode in a chaos, anarchy and fire. In general, seems that Romanov women showed far more strength and spirit than men (who were, ironically, trained as army officers) so once the survivors found themselves in different parts of the world, it was female relatives who found the jobs and persisted with survival, while majority of husbands had no real practical knowledge about anything. Fascinating, insightful and illustrated with pictures from private collections, like any family saga, this book feels occasionally gossipy but the sheer seriousness of the historical moment makes it worth reading several times.