TANIA: Memories of a Lost World by Tania Alexander

TANIA: Memories of a Lost World

Email this review


The subtitle misleads: the controlling theme of Alexander's vibrant memoir is survival--how the author and those dearest to her forged new lives after losing home, country, social position, and loved ones. Born into a family of Russian landowners and officials uprooted by the Revolution and the turbulent events following WW I, Tania grew up on a small remnant of the family's holdings in Estonia. After the loss of her father in 1919, when she was six, her mother abandoned daughter and son to an aunt and a governess, but flitted in and out of their lives year after year. The governess, Micky, deserted by her husband, had taken employment with Tania's family to support children left behind in Victorian Ireland. Her strength of character, insight, and hard-earned wisdom became the mainstay of Tania's formative years. Meanwhile, her aunt Zoria lost everyone she loved most in the war and a substantial inheritance in the Revolution. With indomitable courage, she kept the family together until the forced exodus of Baltic gentry to Poland in 1939. But, above all, Tania's story is one of coming to terms with her mother. During the political upheaval in St. Petersburg in 1918, Moura Alexander fell in love with a British diplomat. Their brief affair ended in permanent separation, and after her husband's death Moura deserted her family to create a new life for herself. As the mistress of Maxim Gorky she survived political danger and economic hardships, eventually to carry on an intermittent affair with H.G. Wells. With grim determination not to be destroyed by war, revolution, and poverty, she manipulated everyone in her life, including her daughter, to maintain a precarious livelihood and satisfy a voracious need for attention. That Tania has indeed come to terms with a haphazard upbringing and the neglect of a totally self-absorbed, mostly absent mother is evidenced by her calm, evenhanded account and the success she has made of her life. Like the best memoirs, Alexander's story goes beyond the merely personal. Despite minor lapses of style and occasional loss of clarity in detail and sequence, she creates vivid lives and a milieu that speak meaningfully to our own.

Pub Date: June 8th, 1988
Publisher: Adler & Adler--dist. by Farrar, Straus & Giroux