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I live in Bedford, England. Having retired from teaching; I am now a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Threshold Concepts in the context of A-level Physics. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. I have also recently become a keen playgoer to London Fringe Theatre. I enjoy mostly classics and I read the playscripts and add those to the blog. I am a member of Bedford Writers' Circle. See their website here: http://bedford-writers.co.uk/ Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Thursday, 25 May 2017

"Caught in the Revolution" by Helen Rappaport

A birthday present from my good friends Steve Lowe and Michele Smith.

The newly arrived US ambassador was "self-made millionaire" and ex-Governor of Missouri David Rowland Francis who had won for his home town of St Louis, Missouri in 1904 both the World Fair and the summer Olympics. He arrived with Model T Ford and body servant Phil Jordan, an African American who had grown up in the slums of Jefferson, Missouri among "thieves, prostitutes and drunks" as a "hard drinker and gang member", graduating to riverboats and eventually the Governor's mansion. (pp 8 - 9)

"the number of young boys with revolvers who looked me over made me feel it was a very easy time in which to be killed" (p 94)
"a soldier and his sweetheart were sitting on the parapet and chinning ... away as if they hadn't a care in the world." (p 117)

A maid who demanded an eight hour working day was asked what she meant. To work from eight till eight she answered.  (p 148)

The self-appointed "Telephone Committee" prevented people from using the telephone. (p 148)

A man accused of being a pickpocket was taken from the bus and shot. The woman who accused him then found her purse. "Nothing could be done for the unfortunate victim of 'justice' so they took the only course which seemed to them to meet the case and leading the woman out, shot her also." (p 149)

English writer Somerset Maugham, codenamed Somerville, was sent to Petrograd from San Francisco to Yokohama and rail from Vladivostok by the British "Secret Intelligent Service ... to prevent the Bolshevik Revolution ... a tall order for one solitary, tubercular, inexperienced British spy, recruited because he knew a bot of Russian from reading Chekhov" (p 251)

US embassy staff took "two hours working with four code books to decipher the formal statement telegraphed to them from Washington that President Wilson has declared war on Germany on 6 April ... the embassy received the news two days later." (p 167)

Trotsky was a "hash-slinger" (waiter) in a cheap New York diner. (p 225)

Arthur Ransome, Daily News reporter, suffered from food shortages: "If ever I do get home ... my sole interest will be gluttony" (p 231)

"No one shall eat cake until everyone has bread" (p 259)

One small quibble. The author really can't do maths. She tells us that the exchange rate is eleven roubles to the dollar and yet she costs a seven rouble chocolate bar at 75 cents (should be 63) (p 260) and, worse, a ten rouble taxi fare as 110 dollars when it should be 91 cents (p 279).

"It was the faces of the starving, shabby population standing in line that most distressed ... they seemed docile, submissive ... they just wait in the rain and the icy blast, shivering ... they had the mindset of fatalistic slaves and it mattered not which kind of government rules over them." (p 268)

"Trotzky is the king of agitators; he could stir up trouble in a cemetery." (p 271)

Loot: "a blanket, a worn sofa cushion of leather, a wax candle, a coat hanger, the broken handle of a Chinese sword." (p 290)

After the October revolution there was an election; the Bolsheviks won "only 24 per cent of the vote. Lenin was incensed." The assembly lasted twelve hours; Lenin established instead a "bayonetocracy" (p 306)

After the October revolution, as winter deepened, famine arrived. "Even the foreign colony ... heard the gray wolf howling." (p 309)

The Bolsheviks could have sold the Tsar's wine to the foreigners but they chose to destroy it instead but even if the "bottle-smashers ... refrained from drinking any of the wine themselves, they became helplessly inebriated from all the fumes." (p 313)

Kerensky, deposed head of the provisional government, escaped from Russia and died in the US in 1970!!!!!

The head of the Anglican church in Petrograd was recompensed by the British government for 8 years service with £50; nearly £44 was then deducted for the costs of his reparation!

A fascinating book. I hadn't realised there were, in effect, three revolutions. I still don't understand how a few people in a single city could take over a whole nation. Or how Lenin, heading a minority party, and less charismatic than Trotsky, ended up being the big bosser.

May 2017; 334 pages

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