Pilgrim Princess: A Life of Princess Zinaida Volkonsky

Maria Fairweather, Author Carroll & Graf Publishers $26 (316p) ISBN 978-0-7867-0831-4
When her husband was the British ambassador to Italy, the author lived in the former Roman home of Princess Zinaida Volkonsky and became intrigued with her complex, extraordinary life. The strength of this biography, however, lies in the prodigious research Fairweather undertook, rather than in the writing, which is somewhat stilted. Zinaida (1789-1862) was born into an aristocratic Russian family and became a highly attractive, intelligent young woman with a beautiful singing voice and a voracious appetite for literature; the princess captivated Russian society. She also fell deeply in love with Tsar Alexander, whose many romantic conquests may have included his sister. Although no firm evidence exists, the correspondence between the tsar and Zinaida points to a sexual relationship, the first of many lengthy love affairs for the princess. To stem gossip, in 1911 she was married to Prince Nikita Volkonsky, whom Fairweather describes as ""weak and lazy."" After the birth of their son, the princess fell into a severe depression, a condition that afflicted her many times during her life. The princess recovered, traveled widely, hosted famed musical and literary salons in Moscow, Paris and Rome and published several books of poetry and prose. Existing as she did at the center of European intellectual and cultural life, Zinaida became acquainted with many notable individuals, including Pushkin and Gogol, and Fairweather is particularly adept at weaving the major events of the 19th century into her narrative. Later in life, Zinaida settled in Rome, converted to Catholicism (becoming an almost fanatic devotee) and eschewed her privileged lifestyle by dedicating the last years of her life to serving the poor. B&w illus. (Feb.) Forecast: Though fascinating, the Princess Zinaida's life might seem too obscure to have a broad appeal. However, the British publication of the book early in 2000 was the occasion of a full-page story in Time magazine; it's possible that with review attention, a fair number of readers will be captivated by her unorthodox life.
Reviewed on: 02/01/2001
Release date: 02/01/2001
Show other formats
Hardcover - 316 pages - 978-0-09-480040-3
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-1-84119-241-3
Stay ahead with
Tip Sheet!
Free newsletter: the hottest new books, features and more
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
Email Address


Log In Lost Password

PW has integrated its print and digital subscriptions, offering exciting new benefits to subscribers, who are now entitled to both the print edition and the digital editions of PW (online or via our app). For instructions on how to set up your accout for digital access, click here. For more information, click here.

The part of the site you are trying to access is now available to subscribers only. Subscribers: to set up your digital subscription with the new system (if you have not done so already), click here. To subscribe, click here.

Email pw@pubservice.com with questions.

Not Registered? Click here.