Kerri Turner on writing historical women and the importance of Herstory

Kerri Turner, author of The Last Days of the Romanov Dancers, tells us about writing historical women, and the place of women in Russian history.  

Writing a woman into a historical timeframe can pose problems. How do we create a realistic character, whose position in the world is restricted, whose power is almost nil, who often is considered barely human, yet make her sympathetic and interesting to readers with modern sensibilities?

It’s a daunting task, and one I was prepared to struggle with when I set out to write The Last Days of the Romanov Dancers. However, once the process of research was underway, I discovered something interesting: historically in Russia, gender was not the impediment it presented in other countries.

Surprising, but true. In World War II women were recruited as pilots and snipers, while the rest of the world largely still banned them from active service. Look back a few decades to World War I and the era in which The Last Days of the Romanov Dancers is set, and the most influential and wealthy person in Russia outside of the Romanov family themselves was a woman. A ballerina called Mathilde Kschessinska.

Image result for mathilde kschessinska

This was a woman who had the courage to take Lenin himself to court after the revolution. A woman who owned one of the first automobiles in Russia. Who became the second person to ever be given the rank ‘prima ballerina assoluta’ despite the objection of the person who created that rank.

The reason the names of women like Mathilde have disappeared from history is because their influence was so absolute they proved a threat to the new order. Their stories were erased from history via propaganda and intimidation.

It’s time to remember the names and stories of these women. To see how they shaped history. To understand that without them, the world would look very different today.

It’s time to see that turn-of-the-century ballerinas, with their delicate and ethereal grace, had a core of steel and could – and did – take on the most intimidating men in history.


The Last Days of the Romanov Dancers by  Kerri Turner 

Petrograd, 1914. A country on a knife edge. The story of two people caught in the middle – with everything to lose… A stunning debut from a talented new Australian voice in historical fiction.

Valentina Yershova’s position in the Romanovs’ Imperial Russian Ballet is the only thing that keeps her from the clutches of poverty. With implacable determination, she has clawed her way through the ranks, relying not only on her talent but her alliances with influential men that grant them her body, but never her heart. Then Luka Zhirkov – the gifted son of a factory worker – joins the company, and suddenly everything she has built is put at risk.

For Luka, being accepted into the company fulfils a lifelong dream. But in the eyes of his proletariat father, it makes him a traitor. As civil war tightens its grip and the country starves, Luka is torn between his growing connection to Valentina and his guilt for their lavish way of life.

For the Imperial Russian Ballet has become the ultimate symbol of Romanov indulgence, and soon the lovers are forced to choose: their country, their art or each other…

A powerful novel of revolution, passion and just how much two people will sacrifice…

Find out more 


To find out more, and for your chance to WIN visit Herstory: books that write her back into history. 


Posted on January 21, 2019 by

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"Kerri Turner on writing historical women and the importance of Herstory"

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