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Glorious Misadventures: Nikolai Rezanov and the Dream of a Russian America Hardcover – 1 Aug 2013

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing (1 Aug. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408822237
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408822234
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 3.6 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 331,679 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Owen Matthews was born in London in 1971. He studied Modern History at Oxford University before beginning his career as a freelance journalist in Bosnia. His stories have appeared in a number of publications including the Spectator, Harper's and Queen and Private Eye, the Times and Sunday Times, the Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph, the Independent and the Independent on Sunday, the Daily Mail and the Times Literary Supplement. From 1995 to 1997 he worked at The Moscow Times, a daily English-language newspaper in Moscow, with forays into Lebanon and Afghanistan.

In 1997 Owen became a correspondent for Newsweek magazine, covering the second Chechen war as well as Russian politics and society. From 2001 to 2006 he was based in Istanbul, covering the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Since 2006 he has combined the jobs of Newsweek's Moscow bureau chief and Istanbul correspondent. Owen is the author of Stalin's Children: Three Generations of Love and War, published by Bloomsbury in June 2008, which was shortlisted for that year's Guardian First Books Award and the Orwell Prize for Political Writing, and listed among the Books of the Year by the Sunday Times, Sunday Telegraph and the Spectator. Stalin's Children has been translated into twenty languages, and the French edition (Les Enfants de Staline, Belfond, 2009) was shortlisted for the Prix Medicis Etranger 2009 and the Grand Prix des Lectrices d'Elle 2010.

Product Description

Review

Richly rewarding and hugely enjoyable, Glorious Misadventures is a flamboyant history of sea-faring adventures, imperial encounters, missed opportunities and lost loves which takes the reader back to that long forgotten age when the Russians and the Spanish were the masters of the wilderness between Alaska and California (Orlando Figes)

A thrilling story of swashbuckling adventure and flamboyant derring-do about a neglected but intriguing episode of Russian-American history, Owen Matthews chronicles the shambolic, often-forgotten and short-lived Russian empire in America, combining fresh research with a compelling narrative (Simon Sebag Montefiore)

Rezanov is the central character in Owen Matthews's enthralling account of Russia's great misfire: its attempt to colonise America. Many know that Russia sold Alaska to America, rather cheaply in 1867, fearing that it had become indefensible. But few know how it had become Russian in the first place ... Glorious Misadventures is in part this extraordinary man's biography ... His voyage to the Pacific, with shipmates even more mercurial, reads like an implausibly lively historical novel ... The exotic personalities and adventures come against a backdrop of geopolitical tussles between France, Spain, Russia and Britain. Mr Matthews depicts them neatly, and paints enjoyable cameos ... The book bursts with telling details, many of them gruesome ... [An] exemplary account of adventures that could have changed the world (Economist)

His impressive research has yielded not only a rollicking tale of derring-do, patriotism, endurance, low cunning and occasional bravery, but is a devastating indictment of why Russians made such hopeless colonists . Matthews's vivid and hilarious account illustrated by sketches by the ship's cultured doctor and naturalist, leads up to the final disaster . As with everything else in this enthralling account, Russia lost out through bad timing and bad judgment (The Times)

The brutality and folly of Russia's bid to conquer America has the makings of grand tragicomedy . This is a book that starts in pretty high gear. The human detail is compelling, the geopolitics well outlined, the brutality and folly . Tragicomic. At its centre Rezanov . Is an engaging antihero. Where it really hits its stride is with the story of Rezanov's hopeless mission to Japan . But this story is more than just an aggregate of quirky, funny details. Matthews has an excellent quick sense of the absurd, and his footnotes are great . But he also manages to spin his analysis into an aphoristic style that's fresh and penetrating without seeming glib . Creeping underneath the historical narrative, too, is a sort of covert travel book. Matthews has been to these places, and gets over a wonderful and personal sense of what Northern Mongolia . Or Spruce Island . Are like now, and might have been like then. Really, this is a blindingly good story extremely well told. Go, read. It will make you laugh, stretch your eyes and give thanks that you don't live in anything remotely resembling late 18th-century Siberia (Sam Leith, Spectator)

A moving account of his Russian family's travails in the Soviet Union . Intriguing . Where his book does grip is in its background story of Russia's eastward expansion, driven by its hunger for furs . Matthews has travelled many of the routes these often desperate men took, and his descriptions of them, and of the vast, inhospitable wildernesses through which they travelled, are compelling (Andrew Holgate, Sunday Times)

A swashbuckling Tsarist Russian in America . Told by Matthews, the story loses none of its strangeness and its swashbuckling verve, reading at times like a cross between Conrad's Heart of Darkness and Gogol's the Government Inspector (Financial Times)

The story of the expedition and of how close Russia came to extending its American colonies south to the Mexican border are the subjects of this rich, fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable book (Anna Reid, Literary Review)

Mr Matthews doesn't need success stories or heroes to shine his entertaining light on this dark and hidden corner of history: his gift for storytelling does that alone (Country Life)

A fascinating byroad of history ... A breathlessly rip-roaring tale (Metro)

Owen Matthews relates the story of the courtier Nikolai Rezanov's attempts to settle America for Russia. And, were it not for the author's painstaking research and copious footnotes, Rezanov's life would read like an outrageous ripping yarn ... Matthews has an engaging style which makes the complexities of Russian politics less taxing than they might otherwise be. He has travelled to many of the places Rezanov knew and there is a strong thread of travelogue woven into the biography. His finely-tuned sense of the absurd is brought to the fore in the episode where Rezanov is sent by the Tsar to Japan as an emissary ... Rezanov is an astonishing character: his swashbuckling charisma and ambition far outpaced his abilities as a courtier, but he is captivating in both in his triumphs and tragedies. Matthew's footnotes, full of fascinating details, also display his wry humour. He has penned a compelling tale with a flawed hero whose story deserves to be better known, and he more than does his flamboyant subject justice (Independent on Sunday)

Generous with eloquent detail ... the facts, as Owen Matthews renders them, are amazing (Times Literary Supplement)

Book Description

An untold chapter of America's past, a fascinating insight into a centuries-old love story, Glorious Misadventures is an expansive history of Russian colonisation from Guardian Award-shortlisted author Owen Matthews

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By gwaan on 9 Aug. 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this book very much. It is well written -with an empathic style but rich in language, making me feel as if Owen Matthews himself was right there, talking in all eloquence- and superbly interesting on both accounts of the title:

1. the story of Nikolai Rezanov is pricelss, a character of such contradictions which at times you simpathize with, at times makes you cringe in shock. Almost all qualities seemed to rush through his fast paced life.

2. For a reader with little prior background on Russia, it explains with both analysis and interesting anecdote the expansion of the Russian Empire towards the Wild East, as well as the intricacies of palace gossip and conspiracy. At times, it truly felt like an episode of Game of Thrones!

All in all, a very rewarding and accessible book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Ciaran O'Mara on 26 Aug. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Not only is this a story of Russia's lost eastern empire in America but it reads at times like a novel from the Wild West which also deals with the court at St Petersburg and the social hierarchy of the Russian Empire of the 18th century as well as life in colonial California. Very well written and keeps the reader's attention.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By M. Baerends on 14 Feb. 2014
Format: Hardcover
Absolutely fantastic book about Russia's attempts to build a colonial empire in the Pacific. The story centers on Nikolai Rezanov, a former provincial court clerk who manages to climb the social ladder at the St. Petersburg court; eventually making it to boss of the Russian American Company which exploits Russia's outposts on the Aleutian Islands. A fascinating job which not only confronts him with violent natives and perpetually drunk Russian colonists, but also brings him to Japan on a failed 'embassy', to Hawaii and even to California where he almost marries the beautiful daughter of the Spanish governer of San Francisco. Owens's writing is simply brilliant making what is already a great story absolutely epic. Can't recommend this one strongly enough.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By stella hollis on 7 Sept. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The mass of facts could have been presented more chronologically and there should have been more skilful editing so that the huge achievements of these small bands of Russians would have been blazoned forth rather than revealed in fits and starts. Despite all of these negatives it was a book well worth the effort and opens up a field of interest to those who would wish to know more about discoveries in the eastern Pacific. The huge reach of the Royal navy even after the American war of Independence features as do the trade of Boston merchants round Cape Horn and to Japan and China in the 18th and early 19th centuries.
A rewarding read.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Gloop on 28 Mar. 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A little known slice of history presented in depth but with accessibly and often with real humour. Go buy it!
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