Rasputin

Faith, Power, and the Twilight of the Romanovs
Narrated by: PJ Ochlan
Length: 33 hrs and 3 mins
4 out of 5 stars (274 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

On the centenary of the death of Rasputin comes a definitive biography that will dramatically change our understanding of this fascinating figure.

A hundred years after his murder, Rasputin continues to excite the popular imagination as the personification of evil. Numerous biographies, novels, and films recount his mysterious rise to power as Nicholas and Alexandra's confidant and the guardian of the sickly heir to the Russian throne. His debauchery and sinister political influence are the stuff of legend, and the downfall of the Romanov dynasty was laid at his feet.

But as the prizewinning historian Douglas Smith shows, the true story of Rasputin's life and death has remained shrouded in myth. A major new work that combines probing scholarship and powerful storytelling, Rasputin separates fact from fiction to reveal the real life of one of history's most alluring figures. Drawing on a wealth of forgotten documents from archives in seven countries, Smith presents Rasputin in all his complexity - man of God, voice of peace, loyal subject, adulterer, drunkard. Rasputin is not just a definitive biography of an extraordinary and legendary man, but a fascinating portrait of the twilight of imperial Russia as it lurched toward catastrophe.

©2016 Douglas Smith (P)2016 Macmillan Audio

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

A story that deserves a better narrator.

Pity poor Douglas Smith, he has written a master work of Revisionist History and Revisionist Biography only to have it gainsaid by one of the worst readings ever inflicted on a book.

The actual book is solid, a retelling of the Rasputin narrative using newly found and sometimes ignored sources. Forget the Mad Monk and meet the real man, a symptom of the collapse of the Tsarist Autocracy, but not its cause. Forget the tawdry stories of aristocratic lasciviousness and see the more tawdry exploits with ladies for hire. Explore the rot at the very top of the Russian nation and abject failure of the monarchy to adjust to modernity. It's a great story... ruined.

And the man who ruined it is right between your ears. It's not just the flat, uninspired monotone of the delivery, it's also the actual voice as well. It's high, poorly modulated, yet droning. The pacing is bad, really bad, almost unbearable.

I can not tally the times I had to rewind the performance because my mind drifted off, or worse--fell asleep. Part of the issue here was the complexity of the personalities, and their Russian names, but most of problem is directly related to the presentation.

That presentation rarely rises to level of mediocrity, and mostly plumbs the depths of poor to God-awful. The voice when not grating, is stultifying and sing-song. There is not emotional moment in the narrative, or a heart-rending quote from a participant that is not totally flubbed. It's as if the production was rushed, or telephoned in. The presenter is an alien presence in the narrative. To call it a robotic performance is an insult to both Alexa and Siri would might have done a better job of it.

For the TL;DR crowd, buy the print book, skip the audiobook. Audible needs to pink-slip this particular reader; pronto.

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

A Lot To Chew On

Is there anything you would change about this book?

The book was quite long, but then, this is a definitive biography, so make sure you don't bite off more than you can chew! (I nearly did.) The only difficult part was I had to take a break in the middle of the book and came back to it a couple weeks later; it took some time before I could get back into the story and remember all the complex names and places and situations.

What did you like best about this story?

I have been to Russia, and to some of the locales mentioned in this book - the story came alive and transported me back to my time there, and the sense of history it gives.The detail was amazing. To nearly a dizzying effect.

Have you listened to any of PJ Ochlan’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No, but I thought he did a fine job.

What else would you have wanted to know about Douglas Smith’s life?

N/A

Any additional comments?

The book is awesome, so please don't let my ambiguous comments turn you off - just be sure that you are WAY interested in Rasputin.

6 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

An excellent academic biography

This is a perfect example of what an academic biography is supposed to do: she'd well-documented new light on an old subject. It was riveting.

3 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

He was a man, and this is his story at last

Very well-done book, both the writing and the performance.
This pulls the veil away from so much of the hyperbole that has been Rasputin for 100 years. Not a quick listen, but a good one.

3 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

incredibly thorough work. irritating narration.

The narrator's voice was grating and numerous Russian names were mispronounced which took away from the overall positive experience of the book itself.

6 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Difficult for a non-Russian listener

The book is almost too thorough, overloaded with names which are difficult even for a native speaker. It is almost a treaty or a dissertation on Rasputin, with a clear intent to be very objective but maybe just a little too overburden and unnecessary for a book. Overall it is a solid piece of work which gives you an idea how crazy the top echelon of power had become which was ready to collapse at the slightest push from anywhere. Yet another example how a great civilization committed suicide.

2 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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Horrible narration

This was not a pleasure to listen to at all. Couldn’t get through the first chapter..

5 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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The Rascal Rasputin

This is a very intense and emotional story about one of the most dubious characters in history. A deluded person this Rasputin and who was able to mislead so many others.

2 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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Like listening to Siri narrate a book

I'm a frequent reader of history, but this book seemed singularly without academic foundation. To make it worse, the narrator spoke in a machine-line monotone that was unnatural and stale. Couldn't make it through to the end.

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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Overwhelming

Very comprehensive, but this does not need to be 33 hours long. Too much! Edit!

3 people found this helpful