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Reviewed by Joel R. Dennstedt for Readers' Favorite
Friends of the Tsar: Miracles from Petrograd to the Outback – a collection of short stories by Jon de Graaff - is built upon a great premise. Ancestral stories related by the Australian descendant of an old Russian family once close friends of the Tsar. The storyteller is said to be a man with personal experience regarding the events and places mentioned herein, and of intense historical interest to many. The stories themselves are told with great vividness, momentum, and presence, and they all are based on quite compelling plots. They are raw and down to earth, conveying a most accurate sense of family and of country life, as well as the sudden, dangerous turns that life can take. The powerful interest of the stories does tend to keep the reader enthralled.
In Friends of the Tsar by Jon de Graaff, a general theme emerges of rather miraculous escapes from impending danger and possible death. In the first story, Lovesick Vera Saved from Wolf Attack, Russia (1916), this theme arises as the main character, a young woman, heads to the barn to feed some goats, forgetting on the way to carry a required gun, and she is suddenly surprised by hungry wolves. Other stories revolve around the events of pre-revolutionary Russia, the Russian Revolution of 1917, events of WWI, and also anecdotes told by the family’s Australian friend, Blue. All of the stories in this collection center on the ancestral family’s tales, and together they provide a contemporary view of history in the making.