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Gallipoli came as near being a literary-historical masterpiece as anything published in our time. Moorehead's newest work is no less astonishingly good (the subject is surely vastly more pertinent) -- but the genre is different. The style has the abrupt, synoptic, intense quality of superb journalism; though the flow and subtle play of Gallipoli is lacking, the novelistic tendency in that book is developed and exaggerated here, with each theme somehow ingeniously conveyed by a gesture, a phrase, an anecdote. Thus, the awesome toppling of the Romanov dynasty, though covered adequately in information about its general consequences, is put across devastatingly in the few grisly facts about the royal murders; the exact manner of these murders reveals as nothing else the end of a tyrannical and corrupt tradition and the ascendance of the new Russian masters. If Moorehead occasionally grows hectic in his switchings of scene and variations in mood, he has undeniably attempted -- and convincingly succeeded in -- encompassing one of the most complex and mystery-enshrouded events in human history. He describes, for example: the economic and political background of the Revolution; the corrosive resentment and despair of the impoverished masses; the fiendship power the charlatan Rasputin assumed over the Czarina and, through her, the Czar; the secret inks, forged papers, bank thefts of the future Bolshevik leaders; Kerensky's hysterical outbursts; the reverses met by the armies in the field; the funds (this is by way of newly discovered evidence) supplied by Germany to promote revolution; the reading habits of Lenin; the Allied response to the threat of Russia's quitting the war; the endless riots and chaos which shook St. Petersburg in the final months of the Revolution..... It seems unnecessary to add any praise to the book. It is certain to be a major reading event for the whole nonfiction public.

Pub Date: Aug. 20th, 1958
Publisher: Harper