A Life Different
Elizabeth Antonova Kraevsky paints a panoramic picture of the revolutionary struggle that terminated with Russias enslavement by Bolshevik communism. She accomplishes the extraordinary feat of filtering this period through the sensibilities of a beautiful and intelligent young girl who achieves a triumphant maturity during these tumultuous and frightening times in which her very existence was often in danger. The book is at once a vast epic drama and the very personal story of a girl reared in great privilege and shaped by life-threatening events, but who ultimately found salvation in her faith and in a great love that crossed continents.
Elizabeth spent her Russian years in the beautiful area that stretched along the Black Sea from Yalta to Odessa. Her father was born into the nobility but renounced his hereditary estates to become a renowned physician who offered his services to the aristocracy and serfs in equal measure. Her exquisitely lovely mother often devoted herself to tutoring the children of the oppressed peasants who had no opportunity for education in Czarist Russia.
Elizabeths youth and adolescence were a gorgeous dream of luxury, indulgence, and unadulterated happiness. Elizabeth vividly resurrects a vanished era that will never actually return. Using a combination of narrative and lengthy quotes from her diaries, she enables us to enter the heart and mind of and see with her eyes her gilded youth of great houses, wonderful schools and companions, the schoolgirl crushes and adolescent infatuations, the balls and parties, the luxuriant journeys to other parts of Europe, the clothes, jewels, and furnishings of that bedazzled time.
And suddenly, precisely at the time, she would begin to think of the rest of her life, of marriage or possibly a career, it was over. The beautiful dream became an ugly nightmare. Dr. Kraevsky and his family were living in Odessa when the revolution broke out. After his death, Elizabeth supported the family by working as a translator. The Soviets threw her in jail on the pretext that she was too friendly with foreigners. Actually, they wanted to force her to become a spy for them. She refused. The harrowing descriptions of life in the prison and her fellow prisoners are mesmerizing. Elizabeth manages to find moving sparks of humanity even in this unlikely situation.
After her release, Elizabeth meets an American, Martin Feinman, who falls in love with her almost on sight and, despite feeling the romance was hopeless, she gradually begins to reciprocate. There are moments of great tenderness and passion but the government continues to stand in their way. The obstacles include another stint in prison. The suspense is breathtaking, as Elizabeth Antonova Kraevsky artfully describes the events that may or may not lead to their union.
A Life Different is a book necessary for all history, suspense, and romance buffs.
Alfred Allan Lewis, author of Ladies and Not-So-Gentle Women