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The Romanov Empress: A Novel of Tsarina…
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The Romanov Empress: A Novel of Tsarina Maria Feodorovna

by C. W. Gortner

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Wow! What a great book! I want to read more by Mr. Gortner! I knew the tragic story of Anastasia and her royal family, including her father Tsar Nicholas, but I never knew anything of her grandmother, Nicholas' mother, that this book is about. Such a strong woman! She lived through such troubling times, navigating the heated political climate and dissension with wisdom, grit and courage and survived. living to 80, dying in 1928 and having outlived 4 of her 6 children. The author, I felt, did a remarkable job, after researching more than 150 sources, of compiling facts into an compelling tale, filling in, with his unique style where what could only be surmised. We chose this as one of the best books of last year that we had read for our blog, and this is a definite reread for me! ( )
  Stacy_Krout | Jan 3, 2019 |
There has been a lot of historical fiction published about the Romanovs of Imperial Russia but this is the first I've seen about Maria Feodorovna, the wife of Tsar Alexander III and the mother of Tsar Nicholas II.

Minnie as she was called by her family, was a Danish princess when she married Alexander (Sasha) in 1866. They had six children together and one of them, Nicholas II, would become Tsar following his father's death. Minnie outlived three sons, Nicholas, Alexander and Misha. As is well known, Nicholas and Misha were killed during the Revolution as were Nicholas' wife Alexandra, their five children and other family members. Had Minnie been in the capitol when the Revolution began in 1917 she would probably have been executed as well.

The author has written this compelling account in Minnie's voice, a voice that carefully supported social reform when neither her husband or son would hear of it. How different her later life would have been if they had! Gortner's portrait of Minnie is of a strong, opinionated woman who enjoyed her privileges but was not unaware of the struggle to survive many Russians fought.

The book is well written and easy to follow from Minnie's happy childhood through the years of war and death. Gortner is a new author to me but he's written other historical novels on famous women and I'll take a look at them too. He included a list of fifteen books that he used as primary sources in developing Minnie's portrait and I'm always happy to see the supporting materials used in writing historical fiction. ( )
  clue | Dec 22, 2018 |
Minnie, a Danish Princess, leaves her family home to marry Alexander, the Romanov heir. This book follows her as she becomes empress, a widow, and throughout the reign and death of her son, Nicholas, the last Roman czar.

This book was well written and engaging. I've read a number of books about Nicholas and his family, but none about or from the view point of his mother. I thought this book was absolutely fascinating. I look forward to reading more from this author. Overall, highly recommended. ( )
  JanaRose1 | Nov 29, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Told from the perspective of Maria Feodorovna (known to those close to her as Minnie), mother of Nicholas, the last tsar of Russia,The Romanov Empress chronicles her extraordinary life against a background of opulence and power, politics and tragedy. As reviewer jmchshannon writes below, Minnie was "a force of nature." She told everyone what to do, from her father-in-law the tsar to her children who had the temerity to fall in love with commoners, yet she emerges as a sympathetic character, largely because of the first-person perspective. As a novel, The Romanov Empress is captivating and fully satisfying, with the bonus that it is solidly based on extensive research that illuminates a fascinating and pivotal period of Russian history. This is exemplary biographical fiction. ( )
  Fjumonvi | Sep 7, 2018 |
The Romanov Empress is one of the best examples of historical fiction I have read in a long time. It has everything – exquisite details, a compelling time period, a charismatic historical figure, and extensive research seamlessly compiled into an amazing story of excess, privilege, and politics. Mr. Gortner works his magic once again to bring readers back to Imperial Russia and allows you to view its downfall from a different perspective, lamenting what was and what could have been. It is a fascinating story, one that captures your mind and your heart to the detriment of everything else while reading.

Many an author has tackled the fall of the Romanov dynasty in some fashion, usually from the last tsar’s and his family’s perspective as they focus on the tragedy of their deaths. Mr. Gortner instead opts to focus on the final dynastical matriarch, Maria Feodorovna. In doing so, we get a better idea of life before, during, and after the Russian Revolution. Moreover, we get a different look at Nicholas II, his beloved wife, and their children, one that diminishes the myth surrounding this doomed family. It all makes for a wealth of information that helps explain the complicated history of the Russian peasant versus the Russian monarchy to show how many years in the making the Revolution was.

Moreover, while the story revolves around Maria and her family, Mr. Gortner is even-handed in showing the mistakes both sides made along the path to revolution. He does not hide her husband’s policies and use of brute force designed to root out opposition against the royal family. Nor does he hide just how ineffectual Nicholas II is. What is most surprising is how he holds nothing back in regards to Alexandra and how her domineering attitude and abject refusal to see reason about her husband, family, and Rasputin exacerbated a political situation that was already tenuous and had a direct connection to the fate her family suffered. The whole thing reads like a juicy soap opera, but it is a soap opera backed up by a plethora of research. In my mind, this only makes the story that much more compelling.

Alongside the complex politics is this story of Maria herself, a young woman of royalty raised in a household that did not have a lot of money, comparatively speaking. It was only as she approached marrying age wherein her father inherited the Denmark throne, thrusting her virtually overnight into the intrigues, etiquette, and complicated relationships that hallmark a life of royalty. Unlike other coming-of-age stories, which is essentially what The Romanov Empress is, Minnie did not question her role in furthering those ties by the requirement that she marry. She may have hoped for a love match, but she did not hesitate when duty overshadowed that. Converting her faith to Russian Orthodox, learning a new language, absorbing new customs, leaving her family to live among strangers – none of it phased her. Later, we watch her tackle challenge after challenge with the same pragmatic approach, whether it is assassination attempts, challenges to her authority, or the demise of her entire world. She was a formidable woman, worthy of everyone’s respect regardless of how you feel about royalty in this day and age.

Then there is the appeal of the Russian royal society and lifestyle. The jewels, the art, the fabrics, the food, the ceremony – Mr. Gortner brings it all back to life in a way that makes you lament its loss. The details are vivid, so much so that he makes whatever he is describing seem almost too amazing. You find yourself looking up the palaces and other residences, the famous jewelry, and as many images as you can find of the people and their dresses just to make sure that none of it is a fantastic dream. The wealth of this family is mind-boggling, as is the fact that the remaining Romanov family fled and lived the rest of their lives essentially in poverty. While some readers may feel they got their just desserts, maintaining that much wealth while their nation essentially starved, I cannot help but feel saddened by what the world lost when Lenin took power.

The Romanov Empress is the type of novel that is virtually impossible to ignore. You have difficulties finding a good stopping place while reading, and you constantly think of it when you are not reading it. You lament the fact that you were either not alive or not aware of the remaining Romanovs while they were still alive. While you might not approve of any type of monarchical rule, you cannot help but feel that it would be awesome to be able to see the Romanov splendor in its heydey. Minnie’s story haunts you as you constantly ponder all of the “what ifs” that make up her history and wonder how different the world would be had any part of her story been different. Tsars who have been dead for over a century seem more real to you than the current farcical U.S. leaders. Mr. Gortner has given new life to a long-dead female force of nature, and the world is a little better as a result.
1 vote jmchshannon | Sep 4, 2018 |
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Marrying the Romanov heir, nineteen-year-old Danish princess Minnie becomes empress of Russia and treads a perilous path of compromise in a beloved but resistance-torn country where her son becomes the last tsar.Minnie knows that her station in life as a Danish princess is to leave her family and enter into a royal marriage. She is brought to Russia, and marries the Romanov heir, Alexander. Once he ascends the throne, she becomes empress Maria. When their son, Nicholas, inherits the throne he is the inexperienced ruler of a deeply divided and crumbling empire. Determined to guide him to reforms that will bring Russia into the modern age, Maria faces implacable opposition from Nicholas's wife, Alexandra, whose fervor has led her into a disturbing relationship with a mystic named Rasputin. -- adapted from jacket.… (more)

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