Like the title suggests this nonfiction book covers the history of Russia during the reign of Nicholas II and the fall of the tsar and his family. It compares the lives of the Romanov family against the plight of the ordinary Russian citizen and peasant. It is a tale of extravagance and destitution, a world of plenty versus the desperation of the masses, a story of war and rebellion. This is the story of the last tsar or Russia, his family, and his people.
The mythology of the Romanov family has led to a version of events that make everything appear through rose tinted glasses. So many stories have been told of the family and their fall. The story romanticized in movies like the animated film Anastasia; the truth often buried beneath the legend. Fleming sweeps all that aside and presents the family and the truth behind the fall of the tsar.
With numerous historical sources, an extensive bibliography and numerous notes, the author clearly did her research. The book covers the reign of Nicholas II the last tsar of Russia, from its beginning to his death in 1918 and beyond. She paints a picture of the family that is realistic, touching, and sometimes disturbing. Fleming lets the reader witness the decisions and grave errors that would lead to the tsar’s fall. She introduces the journals of peasants and laborers and places them next to the journals of the tsar and his family. She parallels the lives of the people and the elite, and show how poor decisions led to tragedy. Most importantly of all, she humanizes the tsar and his family. She shows their dedication, their failures, and their love for each other.
This book is well written and entertaining. Fleming has the rare ability to make history come alive for the reader. While the reader can recognize the errors that led to the rebellion, they can still admire the dedication the family had to each other, and how Nicholas and Alexandra cared for their children. Yes, it does seem like they were blind to the plight of the ordinary Russian citizen, but their love for their family humanizes them. I loved the excerpts from the various journals and how she compared the lives of the citizens to the royal family’s. This is an interested and engaging history of the last tsar of Russia.
The audiobook is narrated primarily by Kimberly Farr who does an excellent job narrating this book. In some of the journals we hear other narrators reading the parts to distinguish the journals from the rest of the book. I liked how this was done and it changed things up a bit and kept you interested. The unabridged audiobook is 9 hours and 23 minutes long. I would recommend this as an excellent way to experience this book, but pick up a copy of the print version too so you can see some of the photographs included in the book.
I am not usually a fan of nonfiction and often have a hard time sitting down and reading it. This work was exceptional and kept me interested throughout. I loved how she paralleled the stories of the common worker against that of the family’s elite lifestyle. This work is engaging and interesting—perfect for history lovers or those who just want to know more about the Romanov family.
Cautions for Sensitive Readers
Violence: Yes. This is a true history and the story of a violent overthrow of one family’s imperial dynasty. There is violence in this book, but it reflects the actual events.
Click here to place a hold on the book.
Click here to place a hold on the audiobook.
Click here to check out the ebook from Overdrive.