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Rasputin: The Saint Who Sinned Hardcover – 26 Feb 1998

4.3 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Aurum Press Ltd (26 Feb. 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 185410540X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1854105400
  • Product Dimensions: 23.9 x 15.7 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 795,475 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Brian Moynahan was a foreign correspondent and European editor with the London Sunday Times. He has traveled frequently to Russia and is the author of three previous books on Russian history: Claws of the Bear, Comrades, and The Russian Century. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This was the other main biography of Rasputin besides the Radzinsky 'Rasputin: The Last Word' work which I read to inform myself about the man. Moynahan takes a more cynical view of Rasputin, and the biography does approach the sinner/ saint question of Rasputin with a leaning to the sinner side. However, this is supported with evidence, and it doesn't come across as biased, especially given the controversial nature of the subject. Compared to Radzinsky, Moynahan's biography feels tighter, with less focus on Russia and the culture at the time, but with perhaps more of a view of Rasputin the man. Thoroughly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
I think a good biography will answer many questions and leave you asking many more. That is exactly the case with this outstanding book: in providing a detailed account of Rasputin himself, it naturally draws upon a vast amount of Russian history, adding a sense of context and continuity. Such an approach also layers on the ambiguity; Rasputin's shown as a unique figure in many ways, but also as a man of his time. He wasn't the only intriguer to meddle in politics. He wasn't even the only holy man or healer to gain access to the Romanovs. He was a catalyst - he formed a dangerous simbiotic relationship with Empress Alexandra - but he also lived at a time when the tide had been steadily turning against the old order for years. A generation before, the once radical socialist Dostoevsky - who was sentenced to death for his activities and got as far as the day of his sentence before it was commuted - re-embraced religion, despite retaining misgivings, because he could see something very threatening emerging out of the currents of nihilism and socialism (his novel, The Devils, discusses the state of play in Russia at the end of the nineteenth century and it is the socialists he is describing in the title). A combination of factors had long been at work in the empire, and Moynahan avoids just scapegoating one man, as many, many other figures are necessarily drawn in detail here too.

The book has a circular structure: it begins on the night of Rasputin's murder (and gives us the first of the many fables about his death, courtesy of his daughter, Maria). Then, we loop back to Rasputin's birth in rural Siberia, his childhood, and early years.
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Format: Hardcover
In Parzival, Wolfram von Eschenbach wrote that "when a dauntless man's spirit is black and white mixed like the magpie's plumage, blame and praise alike befall..." and that is certainly applicable to the life of Rasputin, a genuine mystic who yet was a lecher and drunkard, a layman who is thought of as a monk, albeit a mad one: in fact he was never a monk or priest, but was given the unofficial honorific of "starets" ("elder") even when still in his twenties, probably in recognition of his years as a wandering pilgrim, crisscrossing Russia and beyond (he is said to have visited Palestine when young); he was notably corrupt and an influence-peddler, yet gave away most of what he took, either to people at random or to those who wrote to him seeking financial or other help.

I found this book a workmanlike and readable study of the life of this remarkable and world-historic individual, of whom most have a negative view. A few people think of him as a saint. The author, though, has it right: Rasputin was a saint AND sinner, a combination particularly hard for the "Western" or "European" mind to accept.

The flaw in this book, for me, was the concentration, entirely understandable, on Rasputin's political role at or around the dazzling and then fading brilliance of the soon-to-be-swept aside Court of Nicholas (Nikolai) II. I should have liked a lot more about Rasputin's religious and spiritual path. The author includes some ambiguous anecdotes about Rasputin's psychic powers, though.

I myself always have felt that Rasputin's more positive side has been left languishing rather by historians. An interesting view is seen in the work of Sergei O. Prokofieff, The Spiritual Origins of Eastern Europe and the Future Mysteries of the Holy Grail (Temple Lodge Press). Well worth looking at.

This is OK as a read but never fully took flight for me.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book was an interesting and thought provoking read
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x8dc65ed0) out of 5 stars 25 reviews
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x920b0264) out of 5 stars A sensationalised read 19 Sept. 2000
By Cybamuse - Published on
Format: Paperback
The book started out mimicking the marvelous book by Massie, Nicholas and Alexandra, with Moynahan creating the atmosphere that Rasputin walked into. Right off the bat, it became clear that this book was based on the sources that include a more sensationalised account of Rasputin's life, and having read Edvard Radzinsky's book first, that made some things in this book a bit contradictory for me.
I think what threw me was in the middle of this book, Moynahan suddenly turned absolutely vitriolic and was shockingly scathing about Rasputin - and I really felt the obsenities were a bit over the top. There is no doubt Rasputin was just a wee bit manipulating and destructive in the actions he took to preserve his position as the Tsarina's right hand man, but I felt Moynahan drifted a bit there! A beautiful narration is one thing, obsenities are another and all rather lacked the nice professional tone that the book opened with.
However, towards the end of the book, Moynahan settled down again and got somewhere more polite about the whole tragic death. For all Rasputin did, he was just a focus of the frustration the people felt at the hardships being imposed upon them by a Tsar who seemed to be disconnected from his people. Moynahan did convey ratehr well that the prevailing atmosphere in which Rasputin was assisinated was one where you could tell it wasn't going to make any difference to the Russian Empire.
Its up to you whether you read this book - if you believe Radzinsky's sources for his book, then possibly his book is more accurate, however for a largely well-written book about Rasputin based on what the world knew for 70-odd years, this is a pretty good book (apart from the bit in the middle!)
33 of 40 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x920b0060) out of 5 stars Titilating Tale... 22 Dec. 2003
By Diane H.Fabian - Published on
Format: Paperback
...but worthless as a historical biography. This book is a collection of the most salacious gossip from the latter days of the Romanov Empire. It is both entertaining and gives some insight to the "mood" of St. Petersburg at that time, but is filled with "inaccuracies", from references to Rasputin's youth as a time of living in primitive poverty to refering to him as a monk to descriptions of a life style of unrestrained, wild debauchery. In fact, his father was a land owner, Rasputin grew up in a nice home in a town that benefited from being located by rivers (making commerce an important part of the town), was never a monk, remained married to the same woman, brought his two daughters to live with him in St. Petersburg so they could have an education, and for a complex set of reasons, allowed himself to be a scapegoat. While he admitted to "falling into sin", those incidents were a very small part of a very complex and interesting person/life.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8ea474a4) out of 5 stars A gripping and sobering read 7 July 1998
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Rasputin is a figure pretty well everybody has heard of. The popular mind thinks of him as a drunken rake who got into the confidence of the Russian imperial family by a mixture of his guile and their predilection for religious fervour, coupled to their concern for their hemophiliac son and obsession with preserving the autocracy. As this gripping book tells us, that image is not wrong, but it is incomplete. Rasputin was also a devoted family man and did much to help a lot of people. Brian Moynahan makes a good job of showing us this in a steady narrative which only occasionally loses its footing and takes care to put this bizarre figure in context. There are weaknesses. The conclusions are crushed into a couple of pages and I would have liked more on what happened after Rasputin's death and the revolution which followed. But this is an excellent piece of work for anyone interested in Russia at the time. And if the book is sensationalist, well, Rasputin was sensational figure. He was instrumental, albeit possibly unwittingly, in bringing down one of Europe's grand old dynasties. You don't get much more sensational than that.
27 of 35 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8e9f7c54) out of 5 stars Biased, foul-mouthed trashy biography 2 July 2002
By Cybamuse - Published on
Format: Paperback
There used to be (or still is if you are a conspiracist) a lot of mystery surrounding Rasputin and the collapse of the Russian Empire during WWI. I became intrigied after seeing the HBO version of Rasputin and swept away by the magic of Rasputin in Edvard Radzinsky's account (be it true or false...). I felt compelled to find out more and this book came highly recmmended at Amazon so...
Moynahan starts off with the clear, descriptive and simple writing style of the brilliant book on the last Romanov's by Robert K. Massie. Then somewhere in the middle of the book, he descends abruptly into a vitrilic foul-mouthed tirade at Rasputin - which is in shocking contrast to the start of the book. As the chapters kept on unfurling with this pure vitriol, my respect for the biographer and patience with the book deteriorated. Then suddenly, towards the end, Moynahan suddenly finds compassion for Rasputin in his (sensationalised) theory for Rasputin's death. However, Moynahan had lost my respect by then and the book was thrown into the bin - I couldn't bring myself to even subject it to the people at my local library where I usually donate books.
... If you want to read a masterpiece on a good biographer turned bad - this is the book for you. If you want to learn about Rasputin, there are other books on the market which are infinetely more informative!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8ea60b7c) out of 5 stars Brilliant account of that era Russia 24 Dec. 1998
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This book is very good because of Moynahan's account of all things happening to and around Rasputin at the time. It is a wonderful story - outrageous and compelling. Moynahan did an excellent job in his portrayal of early 20th century Russia. The vivid accounts of the Romonov family is the true reason the novel commands so much attetion from the reader. At parts it seems to become redundant, possibly because of Rasputin's tireless exploits. This book is a revealing, and fascinating look at Russia during that period. For that reason alone it is well worth the time.
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