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Olga Romanov Russias Last Grand Duchess [Paperback]

Patricia Phenix
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 4 2000
Olga Romanov lived a life full of romance and danger. Born into the doomed Romanov family in the late 19th century, she barely escaped the Bolshevik Revolution with her life. Never before seen letters and diary entries from Russian archives and family members cast new light on her daring escape across the Crimea, and reveal details of her miserable first marriage and subsequent love affair with the handsome officer who would become her second husband. A true tale of riches to rags, Olga lived on the proceeds of a spectacular cache of Faberge jewels smuggled out of Russia, eventually dying in relative poverty above a hair salon in a run down neighborhood of Toronto. With photographs from surviving descendents and quotes from Olga's own letters, this book brings one of the most illustrious and well-loved figures of Russia's grand imperial court to life.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a well written bio of Grand Duchess Olga Nov. 30 2000
Format:Hardcover
Years ago Ian Vorres wrote "the last Grand Duchess", which was a biography of the life of Grand Duchess Olga based on a series of personal interviews he had with her before her death. It was hard to imagine at first why this book was written and what it could cover that the first book didn't.
I found this book very easy to read. It approaches Olga's remarkable life in chronological order and it never looses track of the fact that this book is about Olga's life and not that of some of her more famous relatives.
Olga was a very adapable woman. She was born to Czar Alexander 3rd and his wife Marie when they were on the throne of Russia. She lived a life in palaces surrounded by servants and guards. Despite this she always carved out an independant niche for herself and this stood her in good stead when the old russia was engulfed in revolution.
Olga moved from the life of a pampered princess and society woman to that of a nurse at the front line and from there to a refugee, with her family in Europe and Canada.
This book fills in some of the areas glossed over in Vorres book. It deals with the later problems with her brother Michael, and the heartache her children bought her later in life. It also deals with lingering mysteries like the sale of her mother's jewels to Queen Mary of England.
I would have to say this is not a minute by minute account of Olga's life but it does bring her life into perspective and presents a woman who wasn't afraid to take life by the horns and run with it. It's book worth a read, especially if you are interested in the old imperial russia or the life of refugees afterwards.
Was this review helpful to you?
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book ever written about Romanovs Oct. 21 2003
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I agree with the reviewer on Amazon.uk who said that this is the best book ever written about the Romanov family. When this book first came out in 1999 it received rave reviews from all the major newspapers in Canada, including The Globe and Mail, the Ottawa Citizen, the Montreal Gazette, the Winnipeg Free Press, etc.....and for good reason. The book reads like a nonfiction novel. It was never meant to be a stodgy historical tome filled with endless digressions about who was related to whom. It's a book with a heart, and soul. Most historical biographies, especially about the Romanovs, are unreadable primarily because they are so dense with detail that a compelling story never emerges. Patricia Phenix knows how to use research in the form of letters and photographs to tell a story and keep a reader transfixed. It could be argued that no historian or writer of popular history knows every detail of a person's life, even if the author has interviewed the subject. That is why there are ultimately dozens of books written about a person's life, because new information is always being found that contradicts other information. Put simply, newspaper critics are right; this is an excellent book; it humanizes Olga Romanov without deifying her. For more excellent reviews of this book, check Amazon.uk.
Was this review helpful to you?
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing Sept. 7 2003
By Miriam
Format:Paperback
I found this book to be disappointing because of the lack of family geneaologies. There's a one-page chart showing the Duchess Olga's immediate family, but none of the relationships to the British or German dynasties. And yet, the author mentions Olga's referrals to "cousin Georgie", meaning King George V of England, with no explanation of why they are cousins; in another section the author tells us that the Queen of Greece attended a family function leaving the reader to wonder why a monarch from Greece would show up at a Russian family affair. Also Duke Ernst of Hesse is mentioned frequently but we don't know where he fits into the picture - is he a friend, admirer, or relative? For anyone only interested in what happened to the Grand Duchess Olga and why she emigrated to Canada, this book would suffice. For anyone else interested in the European dynasties and how they were complexly related, this book is devoid of all information. Pages are devoted to the alleged disappearance of the Romanov jewels and fortune in England but we aren't told of the English connection. Olga's brother, the Tsar Nicholas II was married to one of Queen Victoria's granddaughters and this is an important fact . Either the author wasn't interested or didn't know the relationships herself.
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
42 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a well written bio of Grand Duchess Olga Nov. 30 2000
By K. Maxwell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Years ago Ian Vorres wrote "the last Grand Duchess", which was a biography of the life of Grand Duchess Olga based on a series of personal interviews he had with her before her death. It was hard to imagine at first why this book was written and what it could cover that the first book didn't.
I found this book very easy to read. It approaches Olga's remarkable life in chronological order and it never looses track of the fact that this book is about Olga's life and not that of some of her more famous relatives.
Olga was a very adapable woman. She was born to Czar Alexander 3rd and his wife Marie when they were on the throne of Russia. She lived a life in palaces surrounded by servants and guards. Despite this she always carved out an independant niche for herself and this stood her in good stead when the old russia was engulfed in revolution.
Olga moved from the life of a pampered princess and society woman to that of a nurse at the front line and from there to a refugee, with her family in Europe and Canada.
This book fills in some of the areas glossed over in Vorres book. It deals with the later problems with her brother Michael, and the heartache her children bought her later in life. It also deals with lingering mysteries like the sale of her mother's jewels to Queen Mary of England.
I would have to say this is not a minute by minute account of Olga's life but it does bring her life into perspective and presents a woman who wasn't afraid to take life by the horns and run with it. It's book worth a read, especially if you are interested in the old imperial russia or the life of refugees afterwards.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book ever written about Romanovs Oct. 21 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I agree with the reviewer on Amazon.uk who said that this is the best book ever written about the Romanov family. When this book first came out in 1999 it received rave reviews from all the major newspapers in Canada, including The Globe and Mail, the Ottawa Citizen, the Montreal Gazette, the Winnipeg Free Press, etc.....and for good reason. The book reads like a nonfiction novel. It was never meant to be a stodgy historical tome filled with endless digressions about who was related to whom. It's a book with a heart, and soul. Most historical biographies, especially about the Romanovs, are unreadable primarily because they are so dense with detail that a compelling story never emerges. Patricia Phenix knows how to use research in the form of letters and photographs to tell a story and keep a reader transfixed. It could be argued that no historian or writer of popular history knows every detail of a person's life, even if the author has interviewed the subject. That is why there are ultimately dozens of books written about a person's life, because new information is always being found that contradicts other information. Put simply, newspaper critics are right; this is an excellent book; it humanizes Olga Romanov without deifying her. For more excellent reviews of this book, check Amazon.uk.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing book on Olga Aug. 26 2012
By Argyll Sock - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I found Patricia Phenix's book on Grand Duchess Olga to be a disappointment.

Phenix has used the work of Ian Vorres, an earlier biographer of the Grand Duchess, extensively -- to the point where one questions why she bothered to write this book.

Phenix does not always cite sources adequately. On page 67, Phenix writes that "Nicholas [II], some say with the help of hallucinogenic Tibetan herbs supplied by Alexandra, entered a drug-induced Shangri-La...." Who in blazes are the "some say" for this outlandish theory? Phenix does not say.

On page 177, Phenix speaks of "Grand Duke Cyril, the Romanov Nicholas stripped of his title for marrying a commoner...." Grand Duke Cyril was exiled from Russia for marrying his first cousin, the decidedly royal (and divorced) Princess Victoria Melita of Edinburgh. Nicholas's objections to the marriage were based on the affinity of the cousins, which was not accepted by the Russian Orthodox Church, and on Victoria Melita's status as a divorcee (of Tsarina Alexandra's brother, Grand Duke Ernest of Hesse). Phenix gets the small details wrong, which makes one wonder how she has interpreted the bigger picture.

An earlier reviewer commented on the lack of a genealogical tree, which would have clarified the various relations in the entwined Russian, Danish, Greek and British royal families. Phenix might have benefited from the clarity that such a chart would provide.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good and fairly balanced portrait of the grand duchess.. April 13 2010
By Helen Azar - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Having read some of the more negative reviews of this book in the past I didn't expect to like it, but I rather did. I thought it gave a fairly balanced portrait of the grand duchess, the positive and the negative traits - hence the whole person... as well as of her sons, their wives, grandchildren and others in her family circle. I would have preferred there was less about Anna Anderson (whose photo they even included in the book), but on the whole, I enjoyed this book and even learned a few ne...more Having read some of the more negative reviews of this book in the past I didn't expect to like it, but I rather did. I thought it gave a fairly balanced portrait of the grand duchess, the positive and the negative traits - hence the whole person... as well as of her sons, their wives, grandchildren and others in her family circle. I would have preferred there was less about Anna Anderson (whose photo they even included in the book), but on the whole, I enjoyed this book and even learned a few new things.
3 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing Sept. 7 2003
By Miriam - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I found this book to be disappointing because of the lack of family geneaologies. There's a one-page chart showing the Duchess Olga's immediate family, but none of the relationships to the British or German dynasties. And yet, the author mentions Olga's referrals to "cousin Georgie", meaning King George V of England, with no explanation of why they are cousins; in another section the author tells us that the Queen of Greece attended a family function leaving the reader to wonder why a monarch from Greece would show up at a Russian family affair. Also Duke Ernst of Hesse is mentioned frequently but we don't know where he fits into the picture - is he a friend, admirer, or relative? For anyone only interested in what happened to the Grand Duchess Olga and why she emigrated to Canada, this book would suffice. For anyone else interested in the European dynasties and how they were complexly related, this book is devoid of all information. Pages are devoted to the alleged disappearance of the Romanov jewels and fortune in England but we aren't told of the English connection. Olga's brother, the Tsar Nicholas II was married to one of Queen Victoria's granddaughters and this is an important fact . Either the author wasn't interested or didn't know the relationships herself.
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