Taking the form of a personal memoir, this spare but absorbing historical novel by a descendant of Russian nobility chronicles the death throes of Czarist Russia, the rise of the Communist Revolution and its subsequent bloody Civil War, and â€šmigrâ€š life in post-WW I Paris. A blend of history and fiction, it uses the dramas of several private lives to re-create the outlines of a tumultuous bygone era. Born in 1897, the novel's first-person narrator and heroine, Princess Tatyana, inhabits a world of luxury, privilege and rigid duty. An intimate of the children of Nicholas and Alexandra, she enjoys a pampered childhood as the adored only child of her widowed father, a top officer in the Czar army. But when Tatyana's father and his autocratic mother learn that Tatyana is secretly preparing herself for a medical career, their censure is absolute. Such things are simply not done among women of her class. Although Tatyana reluctantly agrees to live a life more ""suitable"" to her station in society, she rebels against their dynastic ambitions vis-â€¦-vis her marriage, resisting a noble Russian in favor of her cousin, the Polish Prince Stefan Veslawski, heir to the Polish throne. When the Great War and then the Russian Revolution erupt, ushering in a series of cataclysms that will unalterably shatter Tatyana's gilded world, she serves as a nurse on the Russian front, suffers her father's execution at the hands of the revolutionary forces, and finally, after a harrowing period of privations and danger, makes her way to Paris, where, mistakenly believing Stefan to have been killed in action, she marries an old mentor and resigns herself to a life without her charismatic cousin, the only man she truly loves. Although this lacks the imaginative power of a novel on the grand scale, it is nonetheless an engrossing if one-sided portrait of an era.