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After the Romanovs

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Member Reviews

Dr. Helen Rappaport is a well known author of historical nonfiction. She tells the tale of the Romanovs and those in their circle with a deft writing style. She weaves the stories of the Belle Epoque with the harsh reality of those who escaped persecution with little to nothing.
Some books of this genre are a mere recitation of facts, but not so with After the Romanovs. The reader is captured with Rappaport's skill in crafting an enticing narrative.
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Paris was a playground for the Russian nobles before the Revolution, a place to spend lavishly and love freely. After the slaughter of the Tsar’s family and friends, it became expedient for these nobles to run, carrying what valuables they could manage. And so the community grew, never feeling welcome. Some advanced in the arts and fashion, but many remained taxi drivers, mechanics and manual laborers. Reduced to menial jobs, they bonded together to feel a semblance of home and culture. Dreaming of a return to old Russia, they named a successor to the throne, debated the validity of “Princess Anastasia,” survived the French President’s assassination by an emigre, and met in Church to keep their faith alive. Distrust, jealousy and suspicion among the community was constant. Economic recession added to the melancholy; suicide  became a solution.  Some returned to their homeland in time for another world war. Helen Rappaport provides a tremendous amount of research. Reading of stars of the ballet, mingling with fashion designers and literary greats is fascinating, a who’s who of Russian notables. I learned much about this period. The amount of information is challenging, but in the end worth the effort.
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"After the Romanovs" opens in a relatively light fashion as wealthy Russians, among them Romanovs, enjoy vacations and visits to France. Paris is a playground for them. Artists of all kinds flock there to rub shoulders with the elite of the world. Stars like Nijinsky shine. Intellectuals sought both rest and creativity, some even rubbing shoulders with a Russian visitor named Lenin. Yes, that Lenin.

Needless to say, the tone of the book switches gears quickly after the Russian Revolution and assassination of the Tsar and his family. The Romanovs were now targets for the new regime. Many of those who once sought amusement or simply enjoyed the thriving creativity to be found in Paris found themselves fleeing to Paris once again, this time as refugees. Now largely penniless and unable to find work, this is their story. Even the mysterious Anastasia makes an appearance in the book.

Watching this history unfold was at once both saddening and fascinating. The emotions of those in exile swung wildly from optimistic and hopeful for a return to Russia to lost and simply desperate to survive. Few had any practical skills and they were cut off from the past fortunes. The manner in which the French accepted them, of course, also varied. The Jazz Age occurred post revolution but the emigres, many of whom had never worked a day in their lives, were usually too busy trying just to stay alive with a roof over their heads and something to eat and wear, to be caught up in it. Interestingly enough, it was some of the female emigres who perhaps came closest, particularly those who found employment with Chanel or in the garment industry. Former duchesses found themselves doing piecework and embroidering to support their families. You might find yourself being seated at a ritzy restaurant by a former duke or driven about town by a taxi driver with royal connections. Rappaport writes at one point that the unifying thread between them all seemed to be a "solidarity in poverty". Starvation and suicide were common.

Even though I found it a bit difficult to keep the names straight in my head -- I found myself scrolling back-and-forth frequently -- I found the book fascinating. The author has done extensive research and the amount of information she shares is almost staggering. You'll also see the birth of the current communist society which, even then, especially after Stalin's ascent, used spies and kidnapping to its benefit both against its own countrymen and the Russian emigres. There's much to take in here and kudos to author Rappaport for sharing her research with us in such a readable fashion.

Thanks to #NetGallery and #StMartinsPress for the ARC. Even as a former history major and teacher, I came away with not just a more thorough knowledge of the post Russian Revolution emigres but history in general.
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Thank you to NetGalley for an advanced copy of this book. I really thought the subject of this was interesting. I have read Russian history up until the revolution but nothing after. My only fault though is I felt this wandered too much for my taste. I ended up not finishing it completely.
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I enjoy studying  about the British and Russian monarchies.  I've read and own quite a few books about the Romanovs.  Helen Rappaport is very good at this.  So many of the Romanov exiles were left adrift after the first world war.  Rappaport delves into their journey here and she is quite good.

My thanks to the publisher for a copy of this  book.
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I've read quite a Few of Rappaport's books on the Romanovs, and have always enjoyed her writing style. This book is no different, though the subject and scope are. Spanning the decades between the Russian revolution and WWII, this book gives readers a glimpse of the lives of Russians living in Paris. Many of these people were forced out or left during the revolution, and despite a love of their homeland, never returned to Russia. The people Rappaport focuses on is primarily the former aristocracy and writers, as they left the most records behind. I never knew much about this period, the only familiarity I had with it was the animated Anastasia movie (and surprise, it wasn't accurate), so most everything was new to me. I liked hearing more about the extended Romanov family members that managed to make it out of Russia, and how others outside the family were affected by the revolution and their exile from home. While this book covers a lot of ground, the focus is on a handful of big names, making it easy to follow.
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After reading a few fiction books on Russian royalty, it is quick a refresher to read a nonfiction on what happened to many whom sought refuge in Paris. Eye-opening with so many historical accounts, After the Romanovs is a definite read for history lover.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the pleasure of reading After the Romanovs.
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I've always been interested in the Romanov family, but have never read anything specifically about what happened to the exiles after the revolution. This was clearly a well-researched book and the level of detail was impressive. Each chapter was packed with interesting and heartbreaking details and life stories. There was also a very clear sense of the hopelessness and longing for home that these exiles felt and that was very moving. 

As someone with a very general interest in the subject, however, the book was a bit exhausting at times. There was a lot of detail following specific individuals. It probably would have made a difference if I'd been more familiar with the characters versus my first time encountering them. Still, I would definitely recommend After the Romanovs for Russian history buffs and would certainly check out other books by this author.
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I thank Sara Beth Haring from St. Martin's Press, St. Martin's Press and netgalley for the ARC in exchange for honest review.

I have always wondered about Russian nobility and extended Imperial family post 1914 and revolution. This non fiction not only provided me with the answers, but provided brief history of how the Russian nobilities had found their liking towards French and Paris.

While the Social Graces by Renee Rosen based on real life events introduced me to the Gilded Age, I became aware of the Belle Epoque through "After the Romanovs" that I wasn't aware of.

The book goes back from the time when many Russian nobles and Dukes frequently visited Paris and comes to the time when they had to work hard in Paris, unlike how they would throw away money at the Ritz few decades ago.

The revolution that forced many elite Russians into fashion industry and labor work, including an aristocratic woman whose degree as a doctor wasn't accepted and she was forced to work as a driver in Paris is described in this book.

This book is like a history lesson and should be read by those interested in knowing the fate of the rich and the elite post revolution.

Writing style is good and it's evident that the author has conducted immense research in this part of the history.
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Thank you NetGalley for an advanced copy of the book. 

I felt the book was okay but I wasn't enjoying it enough to finish. The writing is dense and it was hard to maintain a natural reading flow. I did like learning more Russian history but I felt like I didn't learn much, even after my limited knowledge.

It's definitely a good researched book if one is interested in Russian history.
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This is a really good addition to the canon of information regarding the Romanv's (Tsar Nicholas II) and their varied extended family who emigrated to Paris during & after the Russian Revolution.  I give great credit to the author for making the various family members and their relationship to the Tsar understand-able. SO many Russioan names and characters and yet it rarely becomes confusing! The Russian diaspora in France (esp. Paris) before during & after the revolution is explored with sensitivity and the cultural shifts from pre-revolution to post revolution are well researched.  I really enjoyed this fascinating account of a period of time that is not often brought out in the history books.
Highly recommended for fans of Russian revolutionary history.
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Great historical nonfiction read! Highly recommend it to fans of the genre and those looking to expand their reading circle. Purchasing for library.
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304 pages

4 stars

This is the story of the several Russian aristocrats and Russian royalty that managed to escape from the country when the Bolshevik purges began in 1917 or so. Many, many of the nobles were executed, but some were fortunate enough to escape. Most went to Paris. Paris was the city they all loved. 

While some struggled to find work, an alien concept to them, some didn’t have a clue. All of their belongings, including the fabulous jewelry and artwork had been confiscated by the authorities. 

The book focuses on several individuals and what they made of, or did not make of, themselves. The stories are very sad for the most part, but some of them, mostly the women, rose above it all and make a new life for themselves. 

This is an excellently written and well researched book. I thoroughly enjoyed it, as I have other Helen Rappaport books. 

I want to thank NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for forwarding to me a copy of this interesting book for me to read, enjoy and review. The opinions expressed here are solely my own.
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I was pleased to have an opportunity to review this book as an eARC from St. Martin's Press as it fit in perfectly with my Nonfiction November plans, and afforded me a reason to read another history book this month. This book focuses on the Russian emigres who escaped to Paris for (mostly) political reasons after the assassination of Czar Nicholas and his family. These emigres were primarily members of the upper class, many of whom were related in some way to the Romanov family, which was an extensive one with many branches, and the members of the "artistic" class, including writers, painters, and other intellectuals who were attempting to escape the Bolshevik revolution and the class upheaval brought on by that takeover of the government. Obviously there were other Russians who wanted to leave the country during this period, but escaping to live in Paris took funds and connections, and I am sure there are untold stories of Russians who had neither and were unable to escape the new regime and/or whose stories have not been recorded.

Rappaport has done extensive research into the period and it shows in the many details she includes in this book. (Particularly impressive that she was able to write this in COVID 2020 lockdown, relying on her stored records, notes and the assistance of researchers in the UK and France who helped her online since she was not able to complete the travel she had planned before the pandemic.) It is striking how much Parisian life influenced the emigres and how much the Russian culture influenced Parsian thought, art, dance and fashion. I particularly enjoyed the chapter on the Russe Ballet, or the Russian ballet, during its heydey, with mentions of Stravinsky and Nijinsky, and the influence both the composer and the dancer had on modern ballet as we know it today. Also of importance were the relationships that evolved between artists, particularly writers, in the cosmopolitan city that Paris was at the time, including the Fitzgeralds and Hemingway, as well as Russian and French writers who moved in their literary circles.

Of personal interest to me was the discussion on the influence of Russian culture on Coco Chanel and her fashion house. From the design of her famous Chanel No. 5 perfume bottle to her relationship with female members of the Russian nobility who worked in the fashion houses as models, or as pieceworkers providing embroidery for various Chanel design collections, the contribution of Russian culture and style to Chanel's fashion sense was extensive. It is of note to me as well that it appears the Russian women were able to assimilate themselves into the Parisian culture, even if they longed for home, by accepting their reduced circumstances and being willing (and able) to pick up a trade like embroidery or piecework, to make ends meet. This was not often the case with the male members of the aristocracy, who attempted to live at their previously accepted standard of extravagant living without the money to do so, and often wound up adrift and penniless once their smuggled funds ran out.

I enjoyed this extensively researched, comprehensive book on this history of the intertwined fates of the Russian emigres and Paris and its culture in the early 20th century. Fans of Russian or French history in the years between the World Wars will enjoy this one, and particularly those interested in social history as it is influenced by the events of political upheaval and major societal changes in those years.
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My knowledge of this time period was limited to the movies I had seen.  The author did extensive research and the information was overwhelming. The elite society and artists loved visiting Paris prior to the Revolution. When the Romanov’s became targets of the Bolshevik Revolution, about 50,000 Russians mostly fled to Paris with only the clothes on their back. They were not a skilled laborer's and had trouble finding work to support themselves. They chose not to assimilate as they planned to return to Russian when it was safe. This book tells some of their stories.
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I tried really hard to get into this one and I just could not make it past the second chapter. I think I thought it would be about something else. I love The Romanov Sisters, and I think I was hoping this would have more Romanov family then it did. I might come back to it once it is published. Rating it a 3 only because I know her writing is sound and the subject will be interesting to those heavily invested in Russian history.
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A very interesting read!  The author provides a detailed look into the lives of members of the Russian aristocracy who lived in or near Paris just  before, during and after the Russian Revolution of 1917.  I have always been intrigued by the Romanovs, so I definitely enjoyed this.  The book reads smoothly and easily, is very well written, and seems thoroughly and impeccably researched.  All in all, I found this to be very engaging, and I look forward to reading more from Ms. Rappaport!
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Helen Rappaport’s “After the Romanovs” is a well-researched, well-written history of the relationship between all manner of Russian citizens and the city of Paris during the period from the late 19th century through the Second World War. It places special emphasis on the period following the Russian Revolution and the so-called “White Russians” who fled Lenin and the Bolsheviks for new but often difficult lives in and around Paris.

The history begins with the pre-WWI “Belle Epoch,” when Paris was a playground for Russian nobility and a performance venue for soon-to-be world-renowned Russian artists such as Nijinsky, Stravinsky, and the Ballet Russes. It then turns to the period following the Russian Revolution and the fall of the Czar when many from that very same nobility—now stripped of much or all of their wealth—emigrated to Paris. Rappaport focuses not only on that nobility, but also on the thousands of middle- and upper-middle-class Russians—doctors, lawyers, educators, soldiers, government workers, etc.— forced to trade their white-collar professions for blue-collar jobs as factory workers, seamstresses, and taxi drivers. The work is filled with anecdotal tales and readers will learn about the post-revolution lives led by not only Czar Nicholas II’s extended family of grand dukes, duchesses, and courtiers, but also by writers, artists, and politicians such as Alexander Kerensky, Marc Chagall, Ivan Bunin, Feodor Chaliapin, and Vladimir Nabokov.
Of course, politics was a huge part of the story of the Russian diaspora and Rappaport covers this adeptly, describing White Russian plans to restore the monarchy as well as Soviet counterespionage to learn those plans and lure various emigres back to Russia to face show trials and execution.

I did find some of the historical, literary, and artistic figures described somewhat obscure. Then again, my knowledge of Russian art and literature is far from comprehensive.  What was not obscure was Rappaport’s central message: how very difficult it is to be cut off from one’s country. That message, repeated many times and in many ways, gives “After The Romanovs” a poignancy that far outweighs any occasional obscurity.

All in all, a very interesting read well worth the time.
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I have just finished reading After the Romanovs by Author Helen Rappaport.

I went into this book not quite knowing what to expect, as I really know very little about the Romanovs, and especially their presence in Paris.

This was an exceptionally well researched and detailed book with so much history and information. Helen Rappaport is an expert in this field.

I found the book to be very interesting and engaging. I also found it a little exhausting as it progressed with so many names, dates, and facts.

However, I will search out more work from the author, and also recommend it to any reader with an interest in history, and the era.

Thank You to Netgalley, Author Helen Rappaport, and St. Martin's Press for my advanced copy to read and review.

#AfterTheRomanovs #NetGalley
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Kindle Copy for Review from Net Galley and St. Martin's Press.

I received a free, advance copy of this book and this is my unbiased and voluntary review. 

It is an intriguing look at the Romanovs’ sisters after their exile from Russia to Paris.  Their struggles as the start fresh in a world they did not exist for them before.  A charming read for history bluffs.
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