In 2014 Christina Oxenberg visited Serbia for the first time on the trail of her family history. What she discovered was not only the astonishing story of her origins – a descendant of the Karadjordjevic dynasty who rose from shepherds to kings – but also the hair-raising history of Europe and its royals from the 18th century to the present day. Deftly weaving Oxenberg’s own family history with that of Europe’s tumultuous recent past, Dynasty is a gripping and at times controversial royal saga, illustrated with 8 pages of beautiful images from Christina’s private collection.
What I Thought:
My recent media tastes seem to have leant towards royalty, given that I have watched both Victoria and The Crown within the last few weeks. I could probably write what I know about the crowned heads of Europe on the back of a postage stamp, but I was quickly drawn in and fascinated by the history of the Serbian royal family, as written by Christina Oxenberg in Dynasty.
Although non-fiction, the story of Oxenberg’s forebears from a humble shepherd, to a young man used as a pawn by the Allies of WW2, the family history reads like an adventure novel – it’s so easy to get caught up in the drama of it all that it is easy to forget that these are not a made-up cast of characters.
What makes this memoir so easy to read is the inclusion of Christina Oxenberg’s own memories of a childhood spent with exiled relatives, and knowing that there was something different about the family but never speaking openly about any of the events that had affected them. To have this interspersed with the whole shocking story adds to the feeling that you are not just reading a history book, but that the terrible world events that happened around and to the family are given an edge of humanity.
There are times when the author writes quite emotionally about her grandparents, and the things she discovered had happened to them only after they had passed away and this adds to the power of such an otherwise public and well-documented family history.
Complete with several pages of family photos, Dynasty is a fascinating book for historians, but at the same time it’s a human story of cherished family members that has clearly been written with love and respect.
Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review purposes. All opinions are, as ever, my own.