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on 3 November 2012
This is the true story of Eugenie Fraser, alias Evgeniya Sholts. It is simply told and well put together although some may find a number of descriptive passages a little too "chocolate-boxy" for their taste. The other irksome thing for Anglo-Saxons are the Russian patronyms - there seems to be an endless cast of friends and relations : Eugenie either kept a diary or else has a better head for names than most of us.
That said, the story is quite rivetting and relates in considerable detail the history of her mother's marriage with a Russian from a privileged background whose family made their money in the timber business centered around Archangel in the far North. Cleverly she includes some excellent stories about her Russian grand-parents but most of the tale is told through the eyes of a pre-teenage girl - and therefore those who wish to know more about, say, the Russian catastrophe of Tannenberg at the very beginning of hostilities in August 1914 would do well to turn to their history books or Wikipaedia ! There is much instead about the changing seasons, social custom, ceremonies at church or school, children's games, and food, including food preparation. It would not be too outlandish to say the book feeds one on a diet of nostalgia for the good old days prior to the 1917 revolution.
The last fifty pages certainly cover the horrors of a disintegrating society torn by civil war and how it effected life for her and her family. It becomes a harrowing tale of violence and lawlessness where by no means everyone escapes with their life. Nevertheless after sundry adventures, together with her mother and younger brother, she lives to tell the tale - sixty years later.
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on 26 September 2009
Eugenie Fraser's Mother was Scottish - but her Father was Russian. As a result, she was born, and lived in, Archangel, but had many long holidays in St. Andrews.

She was 13 when the Revolution began, and simply but movingly describes the gradual dissolution of her lifestyle. She, her Mother and Brother managed to escape to Scotland in 1923 - and there the book ends.

She gives us her family background in loving - and fascinating - detail; she tells us many anecdotes, and describes vividly the Russian way of life, as well as the bitterly cold winters.

I found that I couldn't put the book down. I know that I will read and re-read it with great pleasure.
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on 30 September 2015
Excellent autobiography
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on 11 February 2016
A fascinating story of a Russian world turned upside down again a hundred years after the Napoleonic upheavals: (see the recent production of War and Peace on BBC TV). There are very strong family links with Scotland.
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on 22 October 2013
I've read it before, but because I lived in Broughty Ferry I had to read it again and remind myself of how it was years ago. The family's trials and tribulations, though, were frightening.
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on 18 February 2014
I was entranced by this book. I come from the same area of Scotland, and marvel at the experiences that the author and her family lived through. It was beautifully written and begs to be made into a film.
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on 3 May 2009
'The House by the Dvina' tells of the childhood of Evgeniya Sholts (as Eugenie Fraser was then) and the experiences of her extended family in Archangel, Russia, before, during and immediately after the Bolshevik revolution.

While the basic history of the Russian revolution is familiar, what makes this account so compelling is that it is so very personal, focusing on one family's experience. Fascinating too is that this is set in Archangel - a remote far northern town about which less is written.

Fraser writes with immense warmth and detail, recalling the traditional foods and ceremonies of a bygone age. Off the page leaps a world filled with troikas, wolves, frozen rivers, ice breakers, Orthodox iconography, mushroom pickers, wet nurses, balalaikas and long, arduous journeys. Fraser writes with a childlike acceptance of all that happened around her, but some of the tales she has to tell are truly amazing, including her Grandmother's epic journey to plead with the Tsar for her husband; her Scottish mother's relatively simple decision to marry a Russian man and move to a country completely alien to her; and the fates of her various relatives once the 1920s begin.

This is a compelling read and as non-fiction is not racy or over-dramatised. Fraser brings to life a world gone forever and does so with genuine love for her native land. Hers was an extraordinary childhood and hers a valuable record of an astonishing era in history. I really recommend this book and not just to all those with an interest in history: this holds its own as a really poignant family saga.
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on 11 April 2008
This is a fascinating and immensely readable memoir. Eugenie Fraser - born Evgeniya Scholts in Archangel Russia in 1906 the eldest child of Russian father and Scottish mother reveals a world now consigned to history books. Samovars, wolves, sledges piled high with furs and packages rushing through the artic winter, women bathing naked in the river unobserved and unmolested, are just a few of the images that this book leaves the reader with. The realities of war and revolution are described with a sort of childlike matter of factness that is horribly poignant. The House by the Dvina is beautifully recounted story of an unusual family.
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VINE VOICEon 19 August 2009
What can I say that hasn't been written previously. What a wonderful book. It is just so hard to imagine the changes that Russia went through towards the end and immediately after the First World War. I have read books on the subject but to read an actual account of events first hand was just too poignant for words. Eugenie's childhood spent in the arctic regions of Archangel are wonderfully descriptive, you can smell the onset of spring and feel the absolute chill of winter. Her childhood was happy and that comes through in the book so well. It is only doubly sad when, one by one, the family has to break up, through no fault of their own, to make new lives for themselves or to just exist. Thoroughly recommended reading.
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on 21 March 2008
I have read and reread this delightful book and it is one of my favourites. It's the kind of book that weaves a spell around you and somehow touches a deeply nostalgic chord within--the sort of book that makes you feel somewhat bereft when it ends! I have recommended it to so many others who have also loved it and passed it on in their turn--my mother, my sister, and many friends and acquaintances. It seems to appeal to such a diversity of people of all ages. (Another enchanting book that has this quality is Seal Morning) One friend reads it every winter, relishing every detail of the epic sledge journey to St Peterburg to petition the Tsar, the safe homecoming and the blissful restorative powers of the banya, the traditional Russian bath. (This is one of my favourite episodes too). The book is not particularly well written (the author is obviously not a professional writer), but because she has an endlessly fascinating story to tell and conveys such a genuine, deep love of her childhood, any shortcomings in her writing style are more than compensated for. This wonderful book provides an extraordinary window into the life of a Russian family whose world was abruptly swept away by the Revolution. One feels the tension of the gathering storm of unrest, brutality and destruction, and longs for the spell not to be broken-- one would like to sit for a moment longer in the circle of warm light around the samovar, in the cosy, peaceful room with the little lamp flickering before the icon, and take refuge from the darkness and the inhospitable cold and ice of the Arctic winter. Highly recommended!
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