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The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and…

The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia

by Candace Fleming

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During 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. ( )
  foggidawn | Feb 6, 2015 |

Linda's review: http://blog.threegoodrats.com/2014/12/the-family-romanov.html

Candace Fleming has written an excellent, accessible history of the last Romanov family and the upheaval in Russia in the early 1900s through the first World War and the revolution. The Romanovs' story is juxtaposed with primary source documents from "the 99%," as it were: farmers, peasants, factory workers, the unemployed and starving.

I'm not convinced that even if Nicholas had seen firsthand evidence of his people's suffering that he would have truly understood it and acted to alleviate it, but in any case, he refused to see it or believe reports about it at all. When workers went on strike, he responded not with compromise but with violence. If he had been educated properly in affairs of state, his reactions might have been different, but his father didn't bother to educate him or let him gain any experience. Nicholas and Alexandra, in turn, didn't place much stock in education for their own offspring: four girls, and finally the necessary male heir, Alexei, all of whom grew up apart from the court and government.

A lot of senseless tragedy could have been averted if Nicholas had chosen to emulate his grandfather, the progressive Tsar Alexander II, or even if he had paid as much attention to events as his own father, but instead Nicholas took a head-in-the-sand approach, and Alexandra believed in leaving everything up to God. After converting to the Russian Orthodox church, Alexandra was particularly prone to putting her faith in icons and dubious "holy men" such as Rasputin.

There was much I didn't know about Russia during this period, and this book filled in many gaps. I didn't know that the Romanov family lived outside of the capital city during Nicholas' rule, or that they were moved to Tobolsk and then Ekaterinburg before they were executed. This whole episode in Russian history raises questions about the importance of individual personality and belief in divine right.


Secluded as he was in the country [at Tsarskoe Selo], tucked away from the happenings in the capital, Nicholas quickly lost touch with people and events. His and Alexandra's life together was ' a sort of everlasting cozy tea-party,' remarked one historian, fine for an ordinary private citizen, but not for the ruler of Russia. (34)

"The weakness of one man and one woman...Oh, how terrible an autocracy without an autocrat!" (Duma member, 1915-1916, p. 150)

"...it's like water off a duck's back, all is submission to God. How else can I explain...such total blindness and deafness?" (cousin Sandro after speaking to Tsar Nicholas and Empress Alexandra, 160-161) ( )
  JennyArch | Dec 17, 2014 |
The Family Romanov is a non-fiction account of the last tsar of Russia and his family.

Tsar Nicholas II story begins around 1881 in the book. His father found him to be weak and never prepared him to be tsar. When his father died, Nicholas became tsar, and it doesn't seem like he wanted to be the supreme leader of Russia, and he certainly wasn't prepared. He wanted the accolades, love, devotion, and money from his people, but he cared little to nothing for them. As heartless as he was toward his peasant people, he loved his wife and family. Expected to produce an heir, they had four daughters before producing a son. Alexei was ill, which had to be hidden.

Tsar Nicholas II reigned in a precarious time period. The people of Russia were tired, poor, and hungry. Nicholas was incapable and/or unfeeling enough to do anything about it. He believed that peasants happily worked and enjoyed their simple lives. It never occurred to him that they were hungry and over-worked. In addition to being too removed from reality, Nicholas and his wife Alexandra were besotted by a man named Rasputin. His name is famous in history, and now I know the details. He was a charlatan and had Nicholas and especially Alexandra completely in his whim. When WWI broke out, the Russian army had little. Nicholas had little ability to run a country much less a war, and his wife allowed Rasputin to run the government by choosing the leaders. The people had been unhappy for a long time, and the final straw was finally drawn. The tsar was overthrown.

I enjoy history and I found this book interesting. I learned details of events in history that I just had a fuzzy knowledge of. I blame Nicholas and Alexandra for much of what happened to the people and to his family in 1917. It's worth your time to read. ( )
  acargile | Nov 1, 2014 |
Author Candace Fleming expertly weaves together many different threads to form a complex, tragic tapestry of Russia and its last royal family. Fascinating and compelling from cover to cover. Excellent. ( )
  EuronerdLibrarian | Oct 6, 2014 |
Below is my review of the audiobook version of The Family Romanov. Although the print version has the added benefit of photographs (the Romanovs were very fond of photography, taking hundreds of family photos), the audiobook does a wonderful job of setting the right mood for this tumultuous time in history.

Candace Fleming brings her stellar research and nonfiction storytelling skills to the fate of Russia's last imperial family, the Romanovs, including young Anastasia. Narrator Kimberly Farr adds energy and soul to their story, conveying a range of emotions as she recounts the highs and lows of the family's life. She expresses contentment as the close-knit family enjoys their secluded palace Tsarskoe Selo and desperation whenever hemophilia threatens the life of the young tsarevich, Nicholas. Primarily, however, she conveys a mix of sadness and bewilderment as the royal couple cluelessly, callously, and repeatedly blunders in dealing with the struggling, and often starving subjects in their vast empire.

The story of the Romanovs cannot be told without the larger story of tsarist Russia including Rasputin, Lenin, and the brewing Bolshevik movement. In sections titled "Beyond the Palace Gates," Russian-accented narrators read period newspaper articles, diaries, and correspondence, providing a fully immersive experience of a time, a place, and a tragically doomed family.

Intersted adults, young adults and older children will welcome this well-documented and engrossing work.

http://shelf-employed.blogspot.com ( )
  shelf-employed | Oct 5, 2014 |
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