On this day in 1993 (July 9th) the remains of 5 Romanov family members were identified. Next year, on July 17, 2018, it will be the centennial of their deaths. I find the day that their identities were restored to be a fitting and haunting day to finish such a poignant history.
The fate of the Romanov family is well known. It was popularized with my generation through the cartoon feature film Anastasia -- holding out the hope that one of the ill-fated Romanov daughters survived. While this has sadly proven to be a false hope, the remaining mystery of what happened to the Romanovs during their horrifying final minutes is an engrossing one.
That said (and maybe this is a bit of a spoiler so proceed accordingly), Helen Rappaport does not focus on how the Romanov daughters died. In fact, there is no detail pertaining to their deaths at all. Rappaport focuses on how they lived. It was wonderful to see how the Romanov girls interacted with their siblings and their parents as they functioned within what seemed to be a very healthy family life. It was sobering to realize that these were girls who had hopes and dreams and envisioned a future for themselves. And it was bittersweet to read about their joys, sorrows, and plans...all the while knowing what was in store for them.
On a technical aside, I "read" the audiobook narrated by Xe Sands -- she was fabulous.
What a fascinating glimpse into the life and mind of Jim Jones..the infamous cult leader behind the Jonestown settlement in Guyana. Jones is probably most remembered for forcing the suicide (so...murder?) of his cult in 1978. He can also be credited with adding the phrase "drink the Kool Aid" to the pop culture lexicon thanks to killing his Peoples Temple members with the addition of cyanide poison into vats of Flavor Aid (a Kool Aid knock off).
Jeff Guinn starts at the beginning -- with Jones's birth. It was so interesting to see the evolution of Jim Jones. We go from his childhood and eventual marriage to Marceline...to Jones's hopping around church denominations...to the establishment of the Peoples Temple...and then, ultimately, to Jonestown. One can easily find the horrific images of the aftermath at Jonestown...but HOW does it get to that point? Guinn sympathetically presents the information to where one feels sorrow at its culmination...as well as anger that it even happened.
I will note that the book, while continually moving forward, does seem to stall out about halfway through. One can only state so many times how Jones was a bona fide con man during Temple services. Guinn presented Jim Jones's cancer "healing" trick on several occasions...each time presenting it like he hadn't already addressed it before. It just became a bit repetitive to continually visit service after service in town after town of Jones conning the service attendees. Once I was through that bit, however, the book picked back up as we sped toward Jonestown.
Ultimately, this book documents a tragedy that is almost incomprehensible. How does one man control the minds of over 900 people to where they would kill themselves (some willingly, some not) just because he says so? Does absolute power corrupt absolutely? Or, was Jim Jones evil from the very beginning?
This was a fantastic read! This reads more like a piece of scandalous historical fiction/mystery rather than history. The characters (who actually existed) are colorful...their actions (which they actually did) are unbelievable...the outcome (which actually happened) is crazy. I was enthralled with the saga of Rudolf and Mary Vetsera from start to finish. It seemed like there were more twists and turns in this story than your average soap opera.
I'm not that "up" on Hapsburg history so the Mayerling incident was completely new to me. I knew that the Hapsburgs had a sordid family tree full of intermarrying (and all the health ramifications that come with that), but Twilight provides a glimpse into just how twisted their family tree truly was.
This is a "must read" for armchair historians, historical fiction or mystery fans, and anyone in between. The adage "you can't make this stuff up" comes to mind -- a fascinating and unbelievable chapter in the history of the Hapsburg empire.
The Tunnels is a fascinating glimpse into Cold War history. I've always been interested in modern history -- especially modern military history. When I saw the synopsis for The Tunnels I knew I had to read it. Greg Mitchell addresses a historical (yet timely) episode of the Cold War in examining the varied effects of the Berlin Wall and the actions of the brave men and women who strove to rescue others from oppression. Mitchell does a great job discussing the historical, political, and social ramifications of the Wall. Through The Tunnels we also branch out into the larger aspect of the Cold War as Mitchell discusses the domino effect of nuclear war and mutually assured destruction.
Mitchell presents the history in an absorbing way while still focusing on individual people. The image of one of the women escaping through the tunnels in her designer wedding dress is haunting and poignant. How better to put a "face" on forgotten history than to give a name and a photo to remind us that real people struggled with these life threatening circumstances.
The author also brings to light aspects of the Cold War and the Berlin Wall that is not readily taught in schools. The Cuban Missile Crisis is discussed in school history courses (at least in mine it was), but I had no idea about the CBS or NBC film crews on the scene. It's always disconcerting to think you know the story...only to find an entire chapter was missing.
I would recommend The Tunnels as an engaging read that brings to light an era of history that is quickly drifting out of the national consciousness. Mitchell forces us to look at how walls did not work in the past...and won't work in the present.
I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.