Generally, most people wouldn’t settle down for the evening with a historical book and a cup of tea, but with Frances Welch’s Imperial Tea Party you are going to need a full teapot prepped and your phone on silent – you’re in for a ride.
In her latest book, Welch explores the British and Russian royal families and their politics during the years between Queen Victoria’s favourite granddaughter, Alix’s, marriage to the Tsarevich Nicholas in 1894 and the Russian Revolution of 1917. Whilst not the heart-warming tale that was spun in Fox’s Anastasia, the political landscape of that era is interesting enough to justify a look in. The events of that 1997 animated film are a fanciful interpretation of the hope that Anastasia had, indeed, survived her family’s murder.
The content of this book may seem dry and uninteresting but the events that led to the Russian Revolution are a fascinating tale and full of intrigue and mystery. It helps, of course, that Welch has a natural talent for taking the painstakingly dull details and weaving words into the animated book that Imperial Tea Party becomes. Welch takes diary entries from Alix, Nicholas and Queen Victoria, as well as the headlines and letters written by courtiers and extended family, and she breathes new life into the historically-tense period that defined the Russian/English relationship until the untimely demise of the Romanovs. Welch treats the subject matter with respect and yet manages to write in such a way that it is impossible to get lost. The language of that era is translated but not diminished by this retelling.
However, despite my glowing praise of Welch’s work, it does not detract from the fact that this is a book of historical detective work. There are no mind-blowing surprises within its pages, no matter how incredibly fascinating the events may be. If you do not enjoy historically accurate pieces (or generally resented your modern history class in high school) then I would suggest you steer clear. Ultimately, this book is a labour of love and incredible dedication to piecing the past together – an effort that I commend and have thoroughly enjoyed.
Students of modern history would be well served by a look, so pick it up for the sake of good grades!
Rating out of 10: 7
Distributed by: Allen & Unwin
Released: August 2018
RRP: $29.99 hardcover