By: Helen Rappaport
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: June 2018
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: September 3, 2018
Author Helen Rappaport continues her fascination with Russia and delivers another interesting read about the Imperial Family, this time focusing on the events leading up to their murder and the somewhat feeble attempts made by foreign governments and royal relatives to save them.
The Race to Save the Romanovs analyzes the events leading up to that fateful night in July, 1917 when the entire Romanov family was brutally murdered in the basement of a home in Siberia. What led up to that night is a tangled series of events that, interwoven together, would see the Bolsheviks seize power and decide to eliminate the Imperial Family to quell any hopes of reviving the dynasty.
Rappaport begins her journey by introducing the royal family, and its many relatives, by following Queen Victoria, the 'Grandmama of Europe,' and the marriages she arranged throughout Europe (and there's a chart of all these marriages included which the reader may refer to often while reading). It soon becomes apparent that the future Tsar and his future wife have many close relatives spread throughout the various royal households of Europe. But it's not just blood that ties them together, but shared experiences as the author relates numerous occasions where they interacted and where we get to see a bit of their feelings for each other.
Onward from the first chapter we travel to the years leading up to the tragic events of 1917. Relatives warned Tsar Nicholas that he needed to implement reforms in order to avoid revolution, while others saw that the Russian people viewed Tsaritsa Alexandra as a German spy, as well as a woman given to superstition. Repeatedly warned, the couple ignored all pleas to change their ways and soon found themselves at the mercy of Lenin and the Bolsheviks.
The author chronicles the time the Romanovs spent under house arrest at Tsarskoe Selo, shortly after Nicholas's abdication, through their last hours at the house in Ekaterinburg. While we see what the family was doing during those long days, the author closely follows the planning, or lack of planning in some cases, that was being done to rescue them during each point in their captivity.
Helen Rappaport has exhaustively researched the events leading up to the murder of the Romanovs in 1917. There have been many unanswered questions that the author tackled, such as why Germany didn't take advantage of its stronger hand with the Bolsheviks at the Brest-Litovsk peace talks and insist that the Romanovs be released. The author has uncovered numerous new documents that shed light on these questions. While it becomes clear that Nicholas and Alexandra were not willing to leave their beloved Mother Russia, it also becomes clear that there was a lot more going on that kept their rescue from happening. While the book did not have the "can't stop reading" appeal of her book The Romanov Sisters, I still found it one that I wanted to read in order to discover more answers to the questions of "why" surrounding the end to the Imperial Family. For those with a deep interest in Russian history, this is a rewarding read.
Quill says: For fans of Russian history, Helen Rappaport's newest study on the Romanovs is definitely one to be added to the book shelf.