Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion & the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming, 2014

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Here is the tumultuous, heartrending, true story of the Romanovs—at once an intimate portrait of Russia's last royal family and a gripping account of its undoing. Using captivating photos and compelling first person accounts, award-winning author Candace Fleming (Amelia Lost; The Lincolns) deftly maneuvers between the imperial family’s extravagant lives and the plight of Russia's poor masses, making this an utterly mesmerizing read as well as a perfect resource for meeting Common Core standards.
(304 pages)

This was an amazing read. There was so much intimate detail it read like a historical fiction, but everything was strictly true according to the information we have available. I have read many a book about the Romanovs, most of which are fictional and the majority of which focus on the final months of the royal family (usually involving either Maria or Anastasia's survival), but I learned a whole wealth of information about the family in this book. Facts I knew about the family's lives were put into context, so I didn't just know the small pieces of the Romanov story; I saw the large picture as well.

Scattered throughout the book are firsthand accounts from peasants and soldiers living in Russia during Tsar Nicholas's reign and through to the beginning of Lenin's reign (which was when the Romanovs died). While I'm sure those excerpts provide a good picture of the horror of the lives of the average Russian, I'm afraid I skimmed over and even blatantly skipped most of the excerpts. What can I say? I read half of the book late at night while babysitting (the kids were in bed), and the other half in a foggy sleep-deprived state the next day. I absorbed the intimate details about the royal family (seriously, their diaries were like extensions of their hands!), but I found the inserts more a distraction than anything else. Others might find them more interesting than I did, though.

There are two sets of photographs set into the book, the first half of which focus on the time before the war and revolution, and the latter half providing glimpses into the war as well as the increasingly confined Romanovs. If you're not a reader but you're interested in the Romanovs, then get this book from the library and just look at the pictures. They tell the entire story in an intimate, heartbreaking tale that begins with pictures of people in fancy dress and of opulent houses, and ends with pictures of bones laid out on a table and a holy icon bearing the image of the sainted royal family. It is very moving watching the downward spiral that was their lives. The photographs are amazing; there were many pictures of the royal family that I had never seen before, and even the ones that I had already seen were given new meaning because of the detail the text provided. It really puts the names to faces, if you know what I mean.

All in all, a great historical nonfiction book about a fascinating point in history. If you are at all interested in the Romanovs, this is the perfect book for you!

Edit 12/6/14:
I just realized I forgot to link to Becky's review of this book, which is where I learned about it. If you are intrigued by the book, check out Becky's review as well!

2 comments:

  1. Did you also read *Tsar*, a book mostly of photographs, many taken by the royal family themselves? That is a great one for poring over fascinating pictures. About ten years ago when doing a study of Western Civ for homeschool my daughter and I read several books about the Romanovs and also others of Queen Victoria's descendants - fascinating! Thank you for a helpful review.

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    1. I haven't read it, but it looks like a fascinating book! My library doesn't have it, but I'll definitely be on the lookout for it.
      What I find most interesting about Queen Victoria (who led a very fascinating life!) is the fact that the gene for hemophilia, Alexei's life-threatening blood disorder, originated in her family. It always fascinates me to see how a mutation originating in one woman can have such a huge impact on the entire family of European royals.

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