Thursday, January 17, 2019

Book Report: "Rasputin: The Untold Story"

Rasputin: The Untold StoryRasputin: The Untold Story by Joseph T. Fuhrmann
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Few historical figures are as polarizing and mythologized as Rasputin, so it was a formidable task for Joseph T. Fuhrmann to sort through the misinformation and patch together a definitive narrative about the mysterious figure.

Movies portray Rasputin as a dark wizard who cast spells and hypnotized witless power brokers into carrying out his bidding. Naysayers dismiss him as a charlatan who was more of a mentalist, exploiting vulnerabilities of those he encountered to make himself seem powerful in ways he was not.

Could it be that the truth was somewhere in the middle?

What emerges is a portrait of a megalomaniacal mystic who was the chief culprit at spreading false narratives about his powers and influence. There's little doubt that he was prone to exaggeration, if not outright lies, to shamelessly manipulate the likes of Czar Nicholas and his wife, Alexandra.

Still, there may have been something otherworldly and metaphysical about him. He seemed to have an uncanny ability to diagnose ailments and fathom "cures" that managed to deliver people a measure of health or peace. Eyewitness accounts drove home the common impression that Rasputin had a Kaa the Snake-like ability to seduce and hypotize people with his gaze.

Fuhrmann sometimes gets hung up on the dryer, less fascinating aspects of Rasputin's life, but spends an equal amount of time sorting out the more sultry aspects of his existence, as well as how his sexual exploits resonated in his reputation both at court and in his own home.

Curtis Sisco's narration of the Audible version is workmanlike, if unspectacular. Robotic narration inflects an entrancing rhythm to the proceedings. Some awkward pronunciations of dates aside, the performance lends gravitas to the scholarly yet relatable work.

While far from the final word on the confounding historical figure, Fuhrmann's book goes a long way toward separating the noise from the fact to craft a believable portrait of the man, rather than just the myth and legend.

Publisher provided review code.

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