The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming is a look at the tumultuous years leading up to the Russian Revolution.
the reign of Tsar Nicholas II, the rich grew richer, the poor grew
poorer, and the government grew out of control as the leaders lost touch
with the realities of life for the average Russian peasant or worker.
Unprepared to lead a country, Nicholas listened to bad advice, took
drastic action that exacerbated the problems the country faced, and
failed to act when action was needed. As the government was overthrown,
and then overthrown again, Nicholas and his family suffered the fatal
effects of these decisions.
I've read a fair bit about the
Russian revolution, so most of the major details of this story were
familiar to me. Fleming has done a great job of researching and
organizing her facts, including primary source accounts from common
people as well as the nobility. However, I felt that she was not
sympathetic to the subjects of this book, the Romanov family themselves.
(In a speech accepting the nomination of this book as a YALSA
Excellence in Nonfiction finalist, she admitted that she initially
intended to write just about Anastasia, but found her "boring" the more
she researched her.) I feel that a biographer, even of such flawed
subjects as the Romanovs, should find something to like in her subject
matter. On the other hand, this book is almost compulsively readable,
hard to put down even if you know what is coming. (I did, and I still
kept reading right up until bedtime, with the result that I had
nightmares about the House of Special Purpose, as I knew I would.) And
despite the dark portrait she paints of the Romanovs, she does not give
the impression that what followed for Russia was an improvement. I think
this is a good introduction to the Romanov family and the Russian
revolution for readers unfamiliar with the topic, but would recommend
looking at other sources as well if you find this period interesting.
(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)