By Owen Matthews
Bloomsbury, $28.00, 384 pages
Owen Matthews’ Glorious Misadventures tells the story of Nikolai Rezanov, and his dubious adventures in trying to establish and hold a Russian empire on American soil. Rezanov, a minor and cash-poor aristocrat and Russian bureaucrat, rises in the court of Catherine the Great through the patronage of her last lover, Zubov.
Matthews does a great job of evoking the wildness and sheer and utter misery of travel, particularly in Siberia in the late 18th century. He also evokes the total lack of civilization in many early Russian American colonies. The number of Russian names can be overwhelming to English speakers, and the sheer size of the cast of characters is daunting, but this book reveals a chapter of American history that is little-known and often overlooked.
Reviewed by Katie Richards