“The Russian Galatea”

The Russian Galatea-by Ira David Wood III

  • DougInNC book report
  • “More than a Review”

Brick by brick the story builds. Like other constructs, it was not clear what would rise when the foundation was being laid in the first chapter or two. As author Ira David Wood III shaped The Russian Galatea, it became recognizable as something familiar told from an intriguing point of view.

This is an epic Russian story previously presented on movie screens, in staged shows, and on the written page. Yet, with its own depth and character focus, this tale offers something new. It was a pleasure to read as the mystery grew deeper, the pieces held together, and the structure was completed.

Before gymnasts were icons known by single names such as Nadia and Olga, ANASTASIA was a famous female teenage Russian who needed no surname. That solo intonation connoted nobility, beauty, sacrifice, legend, mystery, drama, and hope that has powered a century of recitation. She was a Romanov, of course, the family of Tsars whose rule of Mother Russia came to an abrupt end.

Perhaps ‘A’ came to the same end; perhaps not. The question put to investigator Nicholas Sokolov in 1919 is this: “What was the fate of each and every one of the Romanovs?” The fiction in my hands and head feels quite real.

A point repeated during the investigation is that things are not always as they seem. But the novel does not deceive. The reader is granted historical perspective, given the evidence, carried through the story, shown a new light, and partakes in one of history’s fine mysteries.

In Wood’s Galatea, protagonist Sokolov holds the image of Anastasia in quiet adoration. In Galatea, the author builds on work he developed and presented dramatically on a North Carolina theater stage in the prior decade. In Galatea, the title references Greek mythology. In Galatea, the writer invokes the words of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (whose book of “Meditations” I happen to be reading). In Galatea, the reader’s mind is engaged, stretched, and satisfied.

This book covers “who, what, when, where, why, … and how.” The historical research is high. The connection with characters is certain. The insight from being “in the [head] where it happens” (Hamilton Musical allusion) is maintained throughout. The description of “place” or “setting” could be better. The use of clichés is not admirable, but confined mainly to one chapter.

Returning to my opening analogy, the assembled bricks were quite suddenly roofed over. Some may dismay that the book seemed rushed to completion. Perhaps the Thomas Edison idiom applies to comrade Sokolov, that genius is “one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” He reviewed facts, studied hard, checked boxes, followed leads, and found the culminating evidence that inspired a quick conclusion. Readers observe how that result compares with the “official report.”

As Robert Frost might say, the various Romanov stories are “roads diverged” … and in Wood’s focus on the investigator, the opportunity is to experience “one less traveled by.”
Enjoy the journey!

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