4 out of 4 stars
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The aristocratic family, the Zuckschwerdts, lived in an estate near Petrograd before the Russian revolution of 1917. The baron, Alexander Zuckschwerdt, and his family were close friends with the Tsar and his family. But the Tsar was harsh and high-handed on the peasants he ruled. This resulted from his war with Japan, which led to starvation and antipathy amongst the poor Russian people. Alexander and his family made arrangements to flee the country. But will they be able to escape safely? What was life like in Russia during those agonizing times? Will life in their intended destination, Australia, be different? Read Friends of the Tsar by Jon de Graaf to find out.
This book entails the Zuckschwerdts family's existence in Russia and their escape during the Russian revolution of 1917. The author aptly describes the tense and dangerous scenarios of living in Russia before and after the war. After the migration, the author's grandparents' (Vera and George) difficulties adjusting to life in Australia after being used to the Russian country life were duly highlighted. The book was difficult to put away because of the humorous events woven into the story; these added new twists to the storyline. For example, Blue, an Australian cattle breeder who visited the Zuckschwerdts, shared a story about a cat that brought in a live snake and laid it down in front of guests at a wedding. The ensuing havoc cracked me up.
The importance of family, spiritual awareness and forgiveness were glimmering themes in this fantastic book. In it, the author detailed some of his challenges and inspirational tales through the character of Blue. Furthermore, the Russians' difficulties during the war were eye-opening tales of endurance, patience, and other virtues.
I find the Russian revolution a fantastic subject. I particularly love how the Tsar's character in this book was presented as in a real-life situation. The author's attempt to instruct on survival skills, the abundance of ground fuel in Australia, and migration are informative. I recommend it to anyone who likes reading historical fiction about Australia and Russia. Moreover, people involved in world politics and war tacticians might appreciate reading about Russia's conditions during World War I.
I wouldn't say I liked the starting chapters; it had too many superfluous details that in no way enhanced the character development. Also, I believe an appendix for some Russian and Australian terms would be needed.
Besides the mentioned above, there is nothing else I dislike about the book. I observed one error in the book, but it did not disrupt the reading flow at all. As a result of the author's authentic presentation of Russian history interwoven with well-drawn characters, I award Friends of the Tsar 4 out of 4 stars.
Friends of the Tsar
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