Alexander Kerensky, the Socialist Revolutionary who ruled Russia for one hundred days, was hailed as ‘the poet of the nation’, ‘the uncrowned king of the hearts and minds of Russia’ and ‘the first love of the Revolution’. He was also branded ‘a Bonapartist dictator’, ‘a womaniser’ and ‘a traitor’.
Women loved him and he broke many hearts. But the one woman whose beauty, loyalty and love surpassed all others and whom he never abandoned was Lydia Ellen ‘Nellé’ Tritton, an Australian journalist and poet. Set against the panoramic backdrop of the Russian Revolution, the Hungry Thirties and the descent into World War II, their story is passionate, exciting, always compelling.
After reading the diaries of the tragic young Ukrainian artist Marie Bashkirtseff, Nellé dreams of living in Paris and devoting her life to ‘a man of great talent’. She meets the exiled Kerensky in London and moves to Paris to work for him. Despite an earlier, disastrous marriage to a Russian singer, she falls in love with her ‘beloved unicorn’, a reference to his masculinity, uniqueness and the threat of imminent extinction at the hands of Stalinist assassins.
The Russian novelist Nina Berberova likened Nellé to Anna Karenina and, indeed, her life had similar themes of social pressures, marriage, hypocrisy, passion, infidelity, jealousy and betrayal. Like the fictional Anna, she became increasingly jealous towards Kerensky, whom she suspected of having affairs. After a bitter separation, they were reunited in New York where a contrite Kerensky agreed to marry her. After the wedding, they returned to Paris just as the Nazis closed in. Their story ends in a Tolstoyan tragedy in which Nellé must sacrifice herself to save her loved one.
Moving effortlessly from the unruffled bourgeois salons of Brisbane to the hidden Russian world on the city’s south side, to revolutionary St Petersburg, pleasure-loving Capri and wartime France, Peter Thompson weaves a love story of astonishing power, depth and perception for publication in the year of the hundredth anniversary of the Russian Revolution, with walk-on parts for Robert Bruce Lockhart and his Australian wife Jean Turner, the Sydney-born diplomat Rex Leeper, the Ace of Spies Sidney Reilly, the ‘Brisbane Bolshevik’ Fedor Sergevev, the Russian femme fatale Moura Budberg, the ‘Little Digger’ Billy Hughes, and a host of authors including Vladimir Nabokov, Somerset Maugham, Ian Fleming, Compton Mackenzie, Francis Brett Young and Dornford Yates.
The author explodes the widely–held myth that Lenin’s October Revolution was the moment that destroyed the Tsarist regime. In fact it was the February Revolution eight months earlier in which Kerensky played a leading role that deposed the Tsar and ended ‘Old Russia’. As prime minister of the Provisional Government, his goal was to establish a Western-style constitutional democracy in Russia. It is Russia’s tragedy that he failed. Ridiculed and then forgotten, he deserves a reappraisal. His relationship with Nellé Tritton provides that opportunity.
Peter Thompson, born in Melbourne, joined the London Daily Mirror in 1966. He was a Fleet Street journalist for twenty years, rising to night editor and deputy editor of the Daily Mirror, editor of the Sunday Mirror and a director of Mirror Group Newspapers. In 1988 Thompson was the first Mirror Group editor to break ranks and expose the criminality of his boss Robert Maxwell. Thompson’s first book, Maxwell: A Portrait of Power, written with former Mirrorman and fellow Australian Anthony Delano, detailed the publishing tycoon’s rise to power through acts of fraud, deception and ...
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