Tyler 's Reviews > The Czar's Madman

The Czar's Madman by Jaan Kross
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's review
Sep 21, 2009

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Recommended to Tyler by: Goodreads Reviews
Recommended for: Anyone
Read in August, 2009

Although this story, in the form of a diary, counts as historical fiction, it is grounded in fact. Jaan Kross constructed the novel according to actual records of events in a family of Estonian nobility. The brother-in-law of the main character records the consequences of dissent in Imperial Russia in an account stretching from 1827 to 1836.

The building up of fiction from records avoids the anachronistic injection of modern viewpoints into bygone eras. Readers get a reliable picture of the values, functions and class details of Estonia’s pre-reform, ethnically mixed society. This fidelity is the unique strength of the book. Good writing and an interesting story improve the picture all the more.

While the Soviet system may have been a target of the book – the original manuscript was found in Leningrad in World War II – that interpretation is dated. The book is a satisfying read in its own right, and I’m happy to add it to my library. The Czar’s Madman is an unknown and underrated book. It will be an asset to literature once more people find out about it and start reading it.

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