Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Angel on the Square

Angel on the Square

Gloria Whelan
Historical Fiction
For ages 12 and up
HarperCollins, 2003   ISBN: 978-0064408790

All in all Katya is satisfied with her life. She has a comfortable home, a loving mother, and certainly she does not want for anything. The same cannot be said for many of the people who live in her beloved city of St. Petersburg. One day Katya’s cousin, Misha, takes her out into the city and shows her how many of the people live. She sees poverty, cruelty, and hopelessness. She sees children working in a stinking factory and she sees women being beaten by Cossak soldiers.

Not long after this shocking trip Katya’s mother takes on the job of being Lady-in-waiting to the Empress. Katya goes with her and becomes the special companion of the Grand Duchess Anastasia. Katya sees how down to earth the imperial family are and at the same time she comes to recognize that the Tsar and his family really do not know what is happening in Russia. They do not understand how much the peasants are suffering. They do not see that the political situation has to change before a full scale revolution breaks out.

In just a few years, from 1913 to 1918, Katya goes from being a fun-loving child to a young women who sees the flaws in her world and who is not afraid to face them. Unlike her mother, she accepts that her class, the aristocracy, has brought this terrible disaster on itself. Through her eyes we see the often heart wrenching beauty of her world and we grieve with her when it is destroyed.

The author seamlessly gives her readers both sides of the story. On the one hand we pity Katya, her mother, and the imperial family, and on the other we feel for the poor people of Russia who have been oppressed for hundreds of years and who have had enough. Beautifully written with superb descriptive passages throughout, this is a historical novel which captures the tragedy of what happened in Russia in the early part of the twentieth century.