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

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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 R 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.


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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 R 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.

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

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    Wow. This was just superb. I kept hearing buzz so I picked it up at the library to just look through it and check out the pictures (there are two sections of photographs) and ended up fully engrossed, reading it from cover to cover in a day. I knew the facts of the Russian Revolution, and that the tsar and his family were murdered and the bodies lost and Rasputin was real weird and so on and so forth, but this takes you beyond the facts. Fleming paints a fascinating picture of Russia at the begin Wow. This was just superb. I kept hearing buzz so I picked it up at the library to just look through it and check out the pictures (there are two sections of photographs) and ended up fully engrossed, reading it from cover to cover in a day. I knew the facts of the Russian Revolution, and that the tsar and his family were murdered and the bodies lost and Rasputin was real weird and so on and so forth, but this takes you beyond the facts. Fleming paints a fascinating picture of Russia at the beginning of the 20th century, using the letters and diaries of not just the Romanov family and their close friends, but also the diaries and letters of the common people looking up at them from their poverty. And the poverty was extreme, horrifyingly extreme! Not that it got any better after the tsar was deposed. Good grief, Russian history is horrible! This book should have been called Mistakes Were Made, but that could apply to the Romanovs, Lenin, Stalin . . . pretty much everyone. It was amazing to read about the opulence of palace life contrasted with the abject poverty and ignorance of the average commoner. I had no idea that the distribution of wealth was so extreme, either. We talk in our country about the 1% and the 99%, but Russia at the time literally had 1% of people living in palaces with gold-plated walls and eating exotic reindeer tongue snacks, while 99% mixed straw and clay with their bread to make it more filling. I felt great sympathy for Nicholas and Alexandra after reading this. I mean, he was the worst tsar ever. The worst. He never should have been in a leadership position of any kind, and he was barely even trying to rule, even during the war. He was a racist, an anti-Semite, and kind of an idiot, but he could have muddled along quite nicely in life as a devoted husband and father, if only he hadn't been put on a throne. But he was. He had no training, no specific education, and everyone knew he would be a terrible ruler, but they crowned him anyway because the DYNASTY MUST GO ON. And Alexandra was a hot mess as well. Yeesh. Together and separately they were responsible for many horrible deaths, and so much sorrow. But nobody, and I mean NOBODY deserves to be trapped in a cellar with their CHILDREN and shot approximately 1,000 times. NOBODY. THEIR CHILDREN. Their poor children. That's what breaks your heart. Spoiled and sheltered and yet still basically sweet, good young people, and they MURDERED THEM. The man who orchestrated their assassination and took the first shot is burning hell now, that's one thing I know for sure. There's a picture in this book of the room they were shot in. The walls are covered with bullet holes and bayonet marks, it's absolutely appalling. Appalling. And for what? Did anything improve? Spoiler alert: everyone continued to starve and freeze to death under communist rule! Yay, communism! Anyway. I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about this book and the events it covers. We could discuss it at length, but I should probably do some work tonight. Suffice it to say: This book was riveting. If you are interested in history at all, you need to read this. If you are interested in Russia, you need to read this. This book took the facts of the Russian Revolution and made me actually see and understand it.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Donalyn

    It makes me cringe to see "perfect resource for meeting Common Core Standards" on a trade book blurb. Savvy teachers and librarians can determine how to use quality books. Well-researched and artfully written. The best book I've read on the Romanovs for any age.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    Well Done! This YA history was just enough for anyone wanting a general idea of what happened to the fall of the Romanovs, the last Tsar and Tsarina, Nicholas II and Alexandra and their beautiful family. What I really loved about this edition of the many books written about The Romanovs is the format the author, Candace Fleming used in presenting the story of the emperor and daily family life, then in chapters titled "Beyond the Palace Gates" which gave voice to the people. These clearly show Nic Well Done! This YA history was just enough for anyone wanting a general idea of what happened to the fall of the Romanovs, the last Tsar and Tsarina, Nicholas II and Alexandra and their beautiful family. What I really loved about this edition of the many books written about The Romanovs is the format the author, Candace Fleming used in presenting the story of the emperor and daily family life, then in chapters titled "Beyond the Palace Gates" which gave voice to the people. These clearly show Nicholas' disconnect with the common populace. In the audio version Kimberly Farr narrates the main story clearly and succinctly. Russian accented narrators bring this period of history to life in their performances of the “Beyond the Gates” segments. These sections were poignant and made this an outstanding read. Recommended for high school readers and adults who want an uncomplicated overview of this important piece of Russian history.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Alice Poon

    A breezy and concise historical account of Russia’s last imperial reign of Tsar Nicholas II, this non-fiction history book reads a lot like a novel. Like with many other similar stretches of history, when viewed in retrospect, the course of events would seem to be so natural and predictable that it makes one wonder, had things been handled with more compassion and less hubris by those in power, if the odds of averting tragedies and disasters could’ve increased. The Family Romanov gives an intimate A breezy and concise historical account of Russia’s last imperial reign of Tsar Nicholas II, this non-fiction history book reads a lot like a novel. Like with many other similar stretches of history, when viewed in retrospect, the course of events would seem to be so natural and predictable that it makes one wonder, had things been handled with more compassion and less hubris by those in power, if the odds of averting tragedies and disasters could’ve increased. The Family Romanov gives an intimate account of the lives of the Romanov family members, namely, Nicholas, his wife Alexandra, and their four daughters, Olga, Tatiana, Marie and Anastasia and one son-and-heir Alexei. The account starts with the 1884 courtship between teenagers Nicholas and Alix of Hesse (who was Queen Victoria’s granddaughter), and carries us through to the tragic end of the whole family in July 1918. Juxtaposing narratives of the opulent, hedonistic lifestyle of the Imperial family side by side with anecdotes of the peasant class’s everyday scourge of abject poverty, oppression and despair, the author presents a poignant picture of two diametrically opposite worlds, worlds inhabited by two classes that are distinguished by birth and destiny. Exaggerated sense of entitlement and obtuseness of the privileged ruling class becomes the cause of its own ultimate undoing. I’m just puzzled as to why the French-educated Romanovs had not learned from the downfall of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. It is interesting to note that it was not until July 2007 that the remains of Alexei and of one of his sisters were finally found. (The remains of the other five family members had been uncovered in 1991.) I’m giving this well-researched book 4 full stars.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Alaina

    After reading about the Romanov family I definitely want to watch the movie Anastasia. The Family Romanov: Murder Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia was so freaking good! It has definitely been a while since I've read about the Russian revolution, the Romanov family, and Rasputin. Before diving into this book, I feel liked I should say that knowing about Rasputin being real and shit still blows my mind and also makes me cringe. He was a creepy dude and I didn't like him one bit. The facts After reading about the Romanov family I definitely want to watch the movie Anastasia. The Family Romanov: Murder Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia was so freaking good! It has definitely been a while since I've read about the Russian revolution, the Romanov family, and Rasputin. Before diving into this book, I feel liked I should say that knowing about Rasputin being real and shit still blows my mind and also makes me cringe. He was a creepy dude and I didn't like him one bit. The facts in this book were mind blowing. I loved reading the letters throughout the book, whether they were from the actual Romanov family and friends but from the actual people as well. The things that they went through were heart breaking. I get that Nicholas was put into a terrible position and everyone knew that he would be a terrible leader. EVERYONE KNEW and they still went with him becoming the next Tsar. I also felt bad for Alexandra because I mean, these two were put into a terrible position with little to none experience or education for them to even do a remotely decent job at being rulers in Russia. They were at fault for a ton of deaths and a crap ton of stuff that went wrong in Russia. Again, people knew that they would fail and be absolute shit in their positions. So there was no surprise really at how bad things went for them. However, what happened to them and their children was heartbreaking. The kids were beyond spoiled and sheltered but they were also sweet and innocent. Kind of baffling if you think about it but these kids didn't deserve to die the way that they did. No child does. The man who initiated this whole things against the Romanov family is an asshole. I hope he's rotting in hell forever because the pictures of the room where they were all killed.. again, heart breaking. I didn't want to look at the pictures in this book.. but I also just had to see it for my own eyes. Even after their deaths, nothing improved in Russia. People were still starving and freezing to death. People were suffering before and after the Romanov family was in power. Things probably could've gotten better if they weren't killed..but we will never know. Overall, this book was an eye opener. It made me cry and broke my heart in some areas. The pictures mostly killed me a little bit. I am so happy that I took a random chance with this book and I will definitely be looking into reading another book by this author in the near future.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    "A blessing for the czar? Of course. May God bless and keep the czar...far away from us."

  7. 5 out of 5

    BAM The Bibliomaniac

    The difference between this book and others about the Romanovs are the little vignettes between chapters in voices of the people suffering under a Czarist regime. I still recommend Massie for anything Russia. No point in reading anyone but him. He's much more knowledge.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    I never knew I could read about Russian history and politics and be so captivated. It was such a dismal time and there was so much suffering. My heart feels heavy after getting to know the Romanovs and then seeing their brutal demise. Excellent read.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Amy Rae

    You know, I thought I knew stuff about the Romanovs. I had a well-worn copy of Anastasia's Album: The Last Tsar's Youngest Daughter Tells Her Own Story as a kid. I learned about her (and the rest of her family) in eighth grade from poor Mrs. Reilly, who clearly was tired of fielding questions about the animated film (which, imo, is fantastic in every sense of the word); she started our Russia unit by informing us all that despite what we might have seen, Anastasia died with the rest of her family You know, I thought I knew stuff about the Romanovs. I had a well-worn copy of Anastasia's Album: The Last Tsar's Youngest Daughter Tells Her Own Story as a kid. I learned about her (and the rest of her family) in eighth grade from poor Mrs. Reilly, who clearly was tired of fielding questions about the animated film (which, imo, is fantastic in every sense of the word); she started our Russia unit by informing us all that despite what we might have seen, Anastasia died with the rest of her family, and we weren't going to be talking about what if she survived. But everything I read and learned was written with a lot of leeway given towards the Romanovs. If I learned much of anything about the conditions that led to their deaths, I forgot it years ago; my memories of learning about the Romanovs go along the lines of "Once upon a time, there was a rich, royal, tragic family, and Bolsheviks killed them in a cellar. And Anastasia didn't escape." With Candace Fleming's excellent book, it's hard to imagine walking away with the same lessons. She doesn't shy away from including the family's flaws (and boy, howdy, those were some bone-deep flawed people) and doesn't get overly caught up in fawning over their picturesque lives. (Faberge eggs don't come up once, for instance.) Better yet, she includes stories of the world outside their lives of luxury, and many chapters end with eyewitness accounts of the poverty and hardship the less privileged multitudes experienced. By including the stories of the common people in Russia, it becomes strikingly clear just why revolution appealed to the nation. And by tracing the political interests of the different factions, she makes it easy to follow how the revolution happened. I have a few qualms that keep me from giving it five stars, though: • In at least one place, I wanted Fleming to take things a little further than she did. She goes into the grand duchesses' atrocious, piecemeal education. It was fascinating and new to me, but I was reading it going, "Well, it sounds like Alexandra absorbed the angel in the house mentality while she was living in England." Fleming doesn't bring that up as a possibility, and teens unfamiliar with the concept (I certainly hadn't heard of it when I was in the target age group for this book) won't be able to make the connection themselves. There might be other places she could have given more information than she did, but I'm not overly familiar with Russian history beyond the visuals of Russian Ark. • Fleming editorializes more than I want in a history book, and I wish there were linked footnotes in the ebook to allow the reader to see her sources for various quotations. This is my "fuck no, narrative non-fiction" bias speaking, but I really don't need rhetorical questions like (paraphrased) "Did the grand duchesses stare into a mirror and remember the lace dresses they used to wear before the revolution????" tossed into a book, nor do I require quite so many adverbs to inform me how various people were feeling and acting. Along a similar line, she'll mention various people "saying" X or Y, and it's like, how do we know this? I much prefer when authors work the contexts of such quotations (most are from diary entries or letters, in these cases) into the prose, because it makes it easier to evaluate its source. (Is it Olga recording what she said in her diary or a family member writing it down in a letter or a bystander reporting it in a deposition? That information matters to me.) Or I want a footnote I can quickly click through to see where the quotation originated. By the time I've gotten to the very end of the book, I'm usually not in the mood to play match-the-quotation with things I read chapters ago. Despite these issues, I came away feeling like I understood this slice of Russian history far more clearly than I ever did back in middle school. This is a fascinating, useful book, and I hope it gets a lot of use in classrooms, libraries, and homes.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Katherine

    This nonfiction book about the Romanovs and the citizens they ruled was both hilarious and heartbreaking. What happened to this family was a tragedy, I don't deny it, but in reading this book it became apparent that they truly were entirely oblivious to the nation they were purported to lead. With this work, Candace Fleming has created an excellent family and national biography that reads like a work of fiction but is completely true--which may be the most shocking part of all.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Marti

    This is the perfect biography! Ms. Fleming has brought the "Family Romanov" to light with those small personal touches that make people come alive. Throw in a little early 20th century Russian political history, some first person accounts of the average daily life and you have a great read. Despite the fact that we know the how the story ends, the author has managed to to add an atmosphere of suspense. Interested in Russian history or just like a good biography,don' t miss this one.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Josiah

    If there's a hint of a good story somewhere in the past, Candace Fleming has a talent for extracting it from the timeline with perfect precision, not overlooking a single sentence from the historical record that adds pathos or relevance to the narrative. She's capable of turning even a moderately interesting historical tale into something good, and had so much more than that to work with in the saga of the Romanovs, a royal dynasty predating Czar Nicholas II's coronation by close to three hundre If there's a hint of a good story somewhere in the past, Candace Fleming has a talent for extracting it from the timeline with perfect precision, not overlooking a single sentence from the historical record that adds pathos or relevance to the narrative. She's capable of turning even a moderately interesting historical tale into something good, and had so much more than that to work with in the saga of the Romanovs, a royal dynasty predating Czar Nicholas II's coronation by close to three hundred years. The charmed existence of the ruling class has long fascinated the common man, who gaze up at the comfort and wealth enjoyed by royalty and dream of living in such splendor, being waited on by dozens of servants whose sole purpose in life is to make things easier for the first family of their beloved homeland. The regent of any financially stable nation has traditionally been entitled to lavish benefits the working man never will enjoy, but even a leader the people are fond of can reach the limit of how much opulence will be allowed him if his commoners suffer while he indulges in luxury. The have-nots generally show high tolerance for their royals enjoying an aristocratic standard of living, but daily anguish siphons their goodwill a bit at a time, and if the monarch carelessly fails to notice the draining of the goodwill reserve and act to refill it, his lofty lifestyle may come crashing down as though termites had been left to gnaw at the wooden pillars keeping his palace erect. That is the story of Nicholas II and the downfall of Romanov autocracy after more than three centuries of family rule over Russia, the death of a cherished royal tradition and perhaps the pivotal event in Russia's history, both internally and in its major role on the world stage. The collapse of autocratic succession emitted shockwaves that influenced world affairs for untold years to come. Nicholas II wasn't a natural fit to be ruler. His father, Czar Alexander III, was more the imperial type: a physically intimidating, steel-willed dictator who kept the peasantry firmly under his thumb without being cruel enough to spark revolt. Nicholas, a lithe, sensitive boy without his father's aggressive demeanor, was an afterthought to the imperial court. As long as Alexander III lived, there was no need to think about the crown inevitably being passed on to Nicholas, and the young tsarevich was as relieved about this as anyone. When sixteen-year-old Nicholas met his twelve-year-old distant cousin, Alix, he didn't realize at first it was the start of a courtship that would blossom over the years into a royal marriage. For Alix would become Empress Alexandra after she wed Nicholas, and the final generation of Romanov rule would commence. Even a big bear of a man like Alexander III had to die one day, and when he did, a full-grown Nicholas assumed the throne beside Alexandra, whom he married a matter of days after his father's passing. The imperial couple weren't stilted with each other when they exchanged words in the privacy of their palace home, The Family Romanov assures us, and Alexandra reminded her husband that whatever troubles beset Russia, they would confront them together. "Darling boysy...me loves you, oh so very tenderly...you must always tell me everything, you can fully trust me, look upon me as a bit of yourself...How I love you, darling treasure, my very own one." The empress threw herself headfirst into her relationship with Russia's czar, committed to supporting him as the leader of one of the world's largest and most formidable powers. Nicholas would need every bit of strength Alexandra could give him for the unprecedented challenges ahead. "I dreamed that I was loved. I woke and found it true." —Alix, The Family Romanov, P. 27 As the imperial couple maintained a lifestyle of extravagance subsidized by Russia's massive monetary reserve, attending dazzling soirees on a regular basis and moving from one cavernous palace to another as the seasons changed, the lower classes were becoming discontent with the status quo. Millions of peasants rotted in the streets, working physically torturous and often deadly jobs that paid too little to keep a single person in bread, let alone a family. Children had to work a job if they wanted to eat, forgoing education to help their families survive another week. The middle class didn't fare much better, but peasants endured the worst hardship, and their meager income was leached to funnel money toward the palace treasury for upkeep of the Romanov family. The downtrodden in Russia had been in dire straits for years, but under Nicholas the crisis reached its flash point, when the huddled masses would not silently endure their suffering any longer. Alexander III had been a strict czar, though fair enough in the minds of his commoners, and they turned to his successor with the hope that an earnest petition to Nicholas to help them improve their quality of life would be graciously received by a ruler with his people's interests at heart. Would Nicholas hear the peasants and ease their affliction? Grassroots social movement among the poor had been on the rise for more than a generation, and it started with self-education. At a time when the vast majority of Russian laborers were illiterate, peasants began picking up books and teaching themselves to read, though literature was as carefully censored by the government as newspapers, to eliminate potentially subversive material. Now the common man who worked an eighteen-hour day took time to read before going to sleep, and the literacy trend gained momentum as people learned to read and consider the opinions of social reformers. In the words of a weaver named Feodor Samilov, "Books taught me how to think." How crucial was it for the underprivileged classes to teach themselves to think independently after generations of them had lived and died in extreme poverty, every rung low enough for them to reach on the social ladder rotted to splinters? Literacy provided common points of informed discourse, and a view toward mobilizing themselves to request the lifestyle upgrades they deserved. The poorest of the poor could gather and intelligently discuss the treatment they expected from the czar. After compiling a list of reasoned demands, thousands of them marched on imperial headquarters to present Nicholas with their petition for change. This relatively docile revolution didn't turn out well. Seeing peasants approach the Winter Palace in a sea of dirty faces and tattered clothing, imperial soldiers fired on them in a slaughter that came to be known as "Bloody Sunday", Nicholas being dubbed the "Bloody Czar". The people were confident their czar would have compassion on them, that Nicholas was just so far removed from the cares of the real world that he had no idea what the peasants endured and would leap into action if they let him know, but this incident destroyed the people's trust in him, perhaps irreparably. As serious social upheaval set into motion by insurrectionists such as Vladimir Lenin began, however, the imperial family had problems of its own. The birth of their first child, Olga, was cause for celebration, though slightly dampened by the fact that as a female she was ineligible to succeed Nicholas as heir to the throne. Next came Tatiana, and her birth was more troubling still for a nation and family eager to welcome the next tsarevich into the world. When Alexandra's third pregnancy resulted in another daughter, Marie, Russia was nearly inconsolable. The empress wasn't a young girl anymore, and carrying babies to term was a hardship. A fourth child, Anastasia, was born, and dark clouds of uncertainty shrouded the Russian sun. How much more of this could they take? The long, painful wait made the arrival of Nicholas and Alexandra's fifth child, a son named Alexei, all the sweeter. Russia had its heir to the Romanov throne. If only it were that simple. Their request for an audience with the czar denied, the peasants' cry for social change grew more fervent, burgeoning into a rebellion that threatened to topple Russian autocracy. Nicholas had no choice but to capitulate to the demands of the furious working class, yielding key functions of the government to a cross-section legislature of citizens from every class of Russians. Imperial power was limited for the first time since its inception, but Nicholas's sadness over this development was tempered by other crises he faced. Alexei was not the healthy boy his parents hoped he would be. The littlest Romanov was born with hemophilia, a genetic disease on Alexandra's side of the family that almost cost the tsarevich his life a number of times. Any undetected internal bleeding was life-threatening, and all the doctors at the Romanovs' disposal could not cure the heir apparent. Many a night Alexei writhed in bed, a sheen of sweat on his fevered brow as he cried out in agony, his parents helpless to soothe the child's suffering. No one outside the family's inner circle knew about Alexei's ailment, for his hemophilia was a closely guarded secret. At about this time Gregory Rasputin entered the scene, and he would do more to advance the plot of the Romanov story than any other individual outside the family. At Alexandra's desperate plea, the supposed holy man attended to Alexei when the tsarevich appeared to be on the verge of death, and miraculously, Alexei recovered from his worst episode of hemophilia yet. Though Rasputin, reportedly a lecherous man who kept unsavory company and routinely drank himself into a stupor, occasionally fell out of favor with the Romanovs, his influence never disappeared, for several times he came when bidden and seemed to work his hypnotic magic on Alexei, snatching the boy back from the cold clutches of death. When Nicholas reluctantly entered World War I with a declaration of war on Austria-Hungary and Germany, Rasputin's clout with the czar extended even to selecting who would head Russia's various war departments, decisions based on who Rasputin liked and who had offended the "mad monk". Regardless of Rasputin's poor advice, World War I was not going as planned for Russia. Inadequate material support for the military caused their offensive to stall, then be forced into retreat as the enemy pushed them back beyond their own borders, seizing large sections of formerly Russian territory. As millions of peasant soldiers died on the combat front because the czar would not properly equip his army, Russia lost most of Poland, and further losses seemed certain. What started out as a reciprocal defense of Serbia had turned into disaster for Russia, and its people, manipulated by Vladimir Lenin in his desire to implement communism, were out of patience. While Nicholas stewed over the war in a faraway palace, revolution came to Russia, and panicked messages forwarded to the czar had little success making him understand the gravity of the situation. Imperial sovereignty would crumble if he didn't act immediately to appease the public, centuries of Romanov rule vanishing like a burned-out meteor in the still, sacred night. Yet Nicholas continued to dismiss entreaties that he appoint a provisional government without delay, and his opportunity to keep the Romanov dynasty intact came and went. Could imperial succession have been preserved had Nicholas paid attention at this point to how upset his people were? It's doubtful, considering the frenzy they were in over the World War I debacle, but we'll never know for sure. Nicholas had been dethroned without even the dignity of voluntarily resigning, and the people would accept no replacement czar. Imperial Russia was no more. Interim politicians had their hands full designing a government to satisfy the people who wanted democracy as well as those who insisted on full-blown communism, but the deposed Romanovs were not forgotten. They remained a symbol of imperial excess, anathema to the Bolshevik revolutionaries, and could be a danger to the revised political structure if public opinion ever swayed back toward sovereign rule. The royal family was shipped from one secret location to another across Russia, both to keep them safe from Bolsheviks wanting to make an example of them and to prevent their supporters from setting them free, but Lenin's men made it clear what they wanted: the Romanovs had to be executed, even the children. No trace of Russian autocracy could be permitted to survive. And so a game of death ensued, a race between the White Army fighting its way across Russia to rescue the Romanovs, and Lenin's bureaucrats, pleading with their dictator to let them end the Romanovs' lives while they had the chance. What happened next was a mystery that took nearly a hundred years to solve as people around the world wondered: what exactly happened to Russia's last imperial family? Candace Fleming does what only true masters of nonfiction are able to: fleshes out people in history so skillfully that it feels as though they are fictional characters of ingenious design, almost too intriguing to believe were real. Yet the Romanovs were a historical family just as presented in these pages, and Candace Fleming merely uses quotes and other documentation about them to create a portrait of these captivating, tragically flawed people who still capture our imagination and evoke strong emotional response in us. Nicholas had tyrannical leanings, and could be shockingly callous and brutal in dealing with his own people. Some would conclude he was nothing more than a monster in hand-stitched finery, but that's the kind of one-dimensional thinking Candace Fleming refuses to settle for in this book. We get to know human beings better when we recognize life as a rainbow of subtle shades and hues, not just black and white. Ms. Fleming's unbiased treatment of characters extends to the Romanovs, Rasputin, and beyond, for a comprehensive and trustworthy record of a complex period in world history. "You are filled with anguish For the suffering of others. And no one's grief Has ever passed you by. You are relentless Only to yourself, Forever cold and pitiless. But if only you could look upon Your own sadness from a distance, Just once with a loving soul— Oh, how you would pity yourself. How sadly you would weep." —Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna Romanova, poem dedicated to her mother, April 23, 1917, quoted on page 179 of The Family Romanov There's so much history to cover that it would be easy to fall into the trap of emphasizing either the plight of the Russian poor or the concerns of the Romanovs, but Candace Fleming somehow affords the two equal time. She sympathetically portrays the hopelessness of peasants before the revolution, especially the heavy hearts of parents who watched their kids perish from malnutrition and preventable disease. Said one working mother: "I had eleven [children], but only three grew up. You'd go to the factory, but your soul always was in torment. Your heart always grieved for your children." And their suffering could have been relieved had the czar commanded it. How could parents not harbor burning resentment for their imperial overseer under those conditions? Russian author Olga Petrovna Semyonova observed the effect this trauma had on peasant mothers. "She soon discovered that because more than half of all peasant children died, their mothers were emotionally distant. They were afraid to love their children." That emotional safeguard used by Russian mothers bled so deeply into the culture that it was passed down from one generation to the next, long after infant mortality rates were not so abysmal. It saturated the Russian way of life and became a stereotypical affect of mothers from that area of the world for a long time. But even the Romanovs with their extravagant riches and state-of-the-art healthcare were not immune to the grim reaper's scythe cutting down their little ones, as Nicholas and Alexandra discovered with Alexei. The reader's heart hurts for them as they prepared for the passing of the son they adored. "When I am dead it will not hurt anymore, will it, Mama?" Alexei asked when a severe bout of hemophilia appeared destined to end his life. The tsarevich's words brought his mother to tears, and I suspect did the same for many of us. The children's French teacher, Pierre Gilliard, insisted that although Alexei could be a haughty, exasperating troublemaker who caused his academic instructors stress to no end, he was "sensitive to the suffering in others because he suffered so much himself". Olga found Alexei lying in the grass one day staring into the sky, and asked her brother what he was doing. "I like to think and wonder," he told her. About what? "Oh, so many things...I enjoy the sun and the beauty of summer as long as I can. Who knows if one of these days I shall be prevented from doing it." Each day of life is an uncertain gift for us all, but that truth was easier to grasp for Alexei because death had held him in its suffocating embrace so many times, only to unexpectedly turn him loose at the eleventh hour. The tsarevich was keenly aware he could not elude mortality forever. He wanted only to enjoy the life he had been born into for as long as he could before that day came when the sun would warm his face no longer. We love stories about royalty, but the saga of the final Romanov generation holds unique fascination. Nicholas and his family lived at a time in history when the past was turning into a more technological future, with human and political intrigue as intense as ever on the world stage and hundreds of millions of smaller stages globally. Autocracy, monarchy, and classical imperialism were petering out and rule of the people was replacing them, though that was far from the end of the drama, especially in Russia. The end of Romanov preeminence was a jumping-off point for that massive societal change, and the lessons we can learn from Russia's first family are timeless. I would give The Family Romanov three and a half stars, and I could not have been nearer to rounding up to four. Nonfiction abounds about the Romanovs, but I don't imagine any other offering can be much more deeply felt than this book. Браво, Ms. Fleming, and thank you for refreshing my passion for this story.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Chelsea

    Considering that my knowledge of this period of history can be summed up by: 1.) The animated classic Anastasia and 2.) Subpar world history lessons in the American school system I learned sooo much from this book. Mainly that being Russian royalty would have been SO awesome and being a Russian peasant/factory worker would have sucked so, so, so hard. Which, really, isn't surprising and isn't specific to pre-revolutionary Russia. I also learned that Lenin had very little to do with the overthrow of Considering that my knowledge of this period of history can be summed up by: 1.) The animated classic Anastasia and 2.) Subpar world history lessons in the American school system I learned sooo much from this book. Mainly that being Russian royalty would have been SO awesome and being a Russian peasant/factory worker would have sucked so, so, so hard. Which, really, isn't surprising and isn't specific to pre-revolutionary Russia. I also learned that Lenin had very little to do with the overthrow of the Czars, and really just took advantage of a favorable political climate when finally returned from exile. This book made it hard not to sympathize with the Romanov family. Not that they weren't horrible rulers who left their country in shambles, because they most definitely were, and they were most definitely given several political outs along with way. But there were familial, cultural, and global factors beyond their control and, truly, they were also just people. When we got to the ending I knew we'd get to, I found myself tearing up while driving home (note to self:: don't do that). To end, I'd like to make a note on the audiobook: I would highly recommend getting the audiobook if you can! While you'll miss out on the pictures that the print books comes with, the narrator does a fabulous job and there are male voice actors who read journal entries/historic documents and thus lend a deeper, secondary level to the narration.

  14. 4 out of 5

    A.L. Sowards

    I didn’t realize this was a YA history book when I checked the ebook out from the library. But I don’t regret reading it. I’ve read things about that time period before, but not focused on the Romanovs, so it was a good introduction. The writing was accessible and had good flow. The author really brought the family to life. The author also did a good job of showing the overall political atmosphere of Russia and the Soviet takeover. It’s a sad part of history. Nicholas wasn’t a very good leader. I I didn’t realize this was a YA history book when I checked the ebook out from the library. But I don’t regret reading it. I’ve read things about that time period before, but not focused on the Romanovs, so it was a good introduction. The writing was accessible and had good flow. The author really brought the family to life. The author also did a good job of showing the overall political atmosphere of Russia and the Soviet takeover. It’s a sad part of history. Nicholas wasn’t a very good leader. I wouldn’t say that’s entirely his fault—he didn’t receive very good training because his father didn’t like him and didn’t bother to give him any experience. So the Tsar and other Russian nobles held balls wearing costumes covered in gems, and the vast majority of Russians barely got enough to eat (or didn’t get enough to eat and died). Russian soldiers went off to fight the Great War without proper equipment—not enough artillery, enough rifles, enough socks, or enough overcoats. Nope, Nicholas wasn’t a very good ruler. Nicholas was, however, a decent father. Not perfect—he and his wife were overindulgent with their children. But there was love in that family, and it’s tragic that their lives all ended in a cellar in Ekaterinburg. It’s incredibly unjust that the children were murdered. The girls (ages 17 to 22) hadn’t done anything to merit execution. The poor things seemed nice, if spoiled. They were so bored in their confinement that they happily took lessons on laundry and baking bread, and gladly pitched in when the housecleaners arrived. I think they could have adjusted to a normal life (where they weren’t royalty and had to work) if they’d been allowed to live. And then poor 13-year old Alexei. The heir was so sick from hemophilia that he couldn’t even walk. Hardly a threat to the Communist regime. Did Nicholas deserve to lose power? I would say yes. Did he and his family deserve execution? I would say no. The Communists should have exiled them, just like Nicholas exiled so many. And what did the footman, cook, maid, and doctor do to deserve death? But what’s really sad about the death of the Romanovs is that nothing got better for the Russian people. They still starved. They still had few freedoms. They were still rounded up and shipped to Siberia or slaughtered in mass numbers. Their soldiers went into the next war without enough rifles. And they were still ruled with an iron fist. 4.5 stars, rounding up.

  15. 4 out of 5

    BookishStitcher

    4.5 I would definitely use this for a non-fiction unit. I'm having fun coming up with library or classroom ideas for this book.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Rachael

    I have to make a confession. Though we diligently try to include at least one work of nonfiction in our Mock Newbery discussions, in my heart of hearts I rarely find it as distinguished as the fiction and poetry it's up against. There have been some very well-crafted works of narrative nonfiction in the past ten years, but, to my mind, none of them has displayed the alchemical combination of plot, character, setting, style, and theme that distinguishes the best fiction. Until now. The Family Roma I have to make a confession. Though we diligently try to include at least one work of nonfiction in our Mock Newbery discussions, in my heart of hearts I rarely find it as distinguished as the fiction and poetry it's up against. There have been some very well-crafted works of narrative nonfiction in the past ten years, but, to my mind, none of them has displayed the alchemical combination of plot, character, setting, style, and theme that distinguishes the best fiction. Until now. The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia is the first work of non-fiction that I would seriously defend as a Newbery frontrunner*. It would be difficult for me to say anything that was left unsaid by its six starred reviews, but I'll add my voice to the chorus of approval. It seems to me that it must be very difficult to write clearly about the Romanovs; a century after their deaths, most portrayals are either fairy tales and (literal) hagiography, or demonic caricature. By shifting her narrative point of view between the claustrophobic lives of the Tsar and his family, and events "outside the palace walls," Fleming deftly walks the tightrope between these two extremes. We are privy to both tender moments between Nicholas and Alexandra and instances of their shocking callousness and indifference to the suffering of the Russian people. What emerges is a portrait of a flawed, sad, arrogant, but ultimately human set of characters. Plot also presents a challenge in narrative nonfiction (especially when the foregone conclusion is well-known to most readers), but Fleming builds suspense through the use of expert pacing. She also immerses the reader in the setting with vivid details and primary sources - diaries, letters, memoirs - that remind of us what was at stake for every stratus of Russian society. Stylistically, she uses irony to wonderful/tragic effect - in one chapter, Nicholas plays dominoes and sips tea as Petrograd falls to mobs of hungry peasants. I'll be recommending this one to Sam for our final Mock Newbery reading list, and I'll come to the table prepared to defend it. Whether or not our participants elect it Maryland's choice for the most distinguished contribution to American's children's literature though, I have little doubt that they will find it, along with Booklist (and me), "compulsively readable." *Caveat: I never did get around to reading Bomb.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jeanette

    This is a youth read giving much of the background reality to the state of Russia and its governance during the decades before the Fall of the Imperial structure and the family who reigned as Emperor/ Empress. This catches the quirky and superstitious mindset of the royalty. And frankly too of the Russian general culture. Religion and hierarchy and much else of educational structure seated in beliefs that magic and occult powers (pre-destination too) existed above almost all other realities. Trul This is a youth read giving much of the background reality to the state of Russia and its governance during the decades before the Fall of the Imperial structure and the family who reigned as Emperor/ Empress. This catches the quirky and superstitious mindset of the royalty. And frankly too of the Russian general culture. Religion and hierarchy and much else of educational structure seated in beliefs that magic and occult powers (pre-destination too) existed above almost all other realities. Truly, the royals were blind to the physical living conditions of most of the people. And the details are myriad and ever more increasingly dire to abysmal from decade to decade. Russian history revolves even just now. This book tells you about before this particular Revolutionary period and just after. IMHO, to look at Russia as a entity and at its governments (throughout its entire history too), it is essential that you study its geography and its populations. Never of one piece and always open to invasions, especially out of the plains from the West. This is a good book for those who have had little prior understanding of the Royals and onus of those directives from those in power that climaxed in Russian governmental overthrow. From one extreme to the other. Neither of them holding any idea of individual rights or essential entity of ownership.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    One of the best books I've read this year. Utterly captivating. I'm ashamed to admit I'm not real up on my world history, particularly this time period, or for that matter, Russia. I mean, Russia... This book is three stories in one; first, an intimate look at the Romanovs themselves. Second, the story of the revolution that began with the workers' strikes of 1905 to Lenin's rise to power in 1917. And thirdly and the most heartbreaking part is the personal stories of the peasants, the men and wom One of the best books I've read this year. Utterly captivating. I'm ashamed to admit I'm not real up on my world history, particularly this time period, or for that matter, Russia. I mean, Russia... This book is three stories in one; first, an intimate look at the Romanovs themselves. Second, the story of the revolution that began with the workers' strikes of 1905 to Lenin's rise to power in 1917. And thirdly and the most heartbreaking part is the personal stories of the peasants, the men and women who struggled to survive in Russia and desperately wanted a better life. I'm now completely fascinated and obsessed with all things Romanov and the fall of Imperial Russia. Crazy shit y'all. CRAZY. HIGHLY recommend this book, wonderfully done and incredibly well researched. I knew what was coming but I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. Fleming does a tremendous job setting the scene and time period, I pictured everything and everyone like it was right in front of me, like a movie running in the background as I read.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Liza Fireman

    This is a story about a rich family, so rich that it is hard to imagine: blazed with light, its massive crystal and gold chandeliers reflected a hundred times in the mirrored walls of its cathedral-size reception rooms.It is a story about a family with a ruler that didn't rule. He lived far away of his people, and didn't see what's going on, didn't see even when it got to an end. And maybe more than anything else, it is a story about a woman, heart broken with a sick child, that would believe in This is a story about a rich family, so rich that it is hard to imagine: blazed with light, its massive crystal and gold chandeliers reflected a hundred times in the mirrored walls of its cathedral-size reception rooms.It is a story about a family with a ruler that didn't rule. He lived far away of his people, and didn't see what's going on, didn't see even when it got to an end. And maybe more than anything else, it is a story about a woman, heart broken with a sick child, that would believe in anything for her child to be healed, to make him feel better. And encountered one incredible Rasputin, a cheater or a magician, the cause of all problems, or a brilliant guy, and maybe both. Here is how disconnected he was: But the marchers soon found their way blocked by soldiers. Unsure of what this meant, and not wanting to be late for their meeting, the workers pressed forward. The soldiers fired. Bullets shredded the flags, and icons, and portraits of Nicholas. Bodies fell to the snow-covered ground. “The tsar will not help us!” cried one of the stunned workers. “And so we have no tsar,” added another darkly. When the shooting stopped, between 150 and 200 men, women, and children lay dead. Between 450 and 800 were wounded. And the traditional ideal of the tsar as the people’s loving “father” was destroyed. No longer would Nicholas be held blameless for their troubles. Now he was a “blood-stained creature” and a “common murderer.” The day itself became known as Bloody Sunday. “Remember, son,” said one father after the shooting had stopped. “Remember and swear to repay the tsar. You saw how much blood he spilled, did you see? Then swear, son, swear.” While his soldiers fired on St. Petersburg’s citizens, Nicholas breakfasted with close friends and family in the semicircular hall of the Alexander Palace (as he did every Sunday morning), then attended services in the chapel. Afterward, he pulled the children around the park in their toboggan, before settling down beside the fireplace in Alexandra’s drawing room with a glass of tea. It wasn’t until early evening that his pleasant routine was interrupted by reports of the massacre. He was shocked. Or even worse: Over the next few months, violence spread across Russia as people reacted to Bloody Sunday. “It makes me sick to read the news,” said Nicholas; “strikes in schools and factories, murdered policemen, riots.” It was the beginning of what his mother called “the year of nightmares.” And yet he took almost no action to end the unrest. The ruler of the country, and this is his response! It almost feels like two different stories. The story about a couple, living reclusively far away, having one girl and then another. Trying to bring a boy to the world, and every time hit a disappointment. The empress Alexandra had given birth to her fourth child! They began counting: odin, dva, tri … But just as before, the boom of the one hundred and first shot was followed by … silence. It was another girl. “My God, what a disappointment!” exclaimed Xenia. Her words summed up the country’s feelings. Some people shook their heads in disbelief, or spat three times on the pavement, a traditional Russian gesture of disgust. Those were the times that people also mentioned that she is German, and, it seems, quite useless. And then the boy is born, and has hemophilia, Alexei’s blood did not clot properly. If you don't know much about this horrible disease you should read the amazing and painful April Fool's Day by Bryce Courtenay. It is not about a cut, any tiny thing can cause internal bleeding. It is impossible, and extremely scary. Pogroms were another thing that Nicholas encouraged. Turning a blind eye as the mob attacked anyone who looked anti-tsar. In the two weeks after the signing of the October Manifesto, there were 694 separate pogroms across the country. He had a special place for Jews, pogroms were just one part of it. Jews were forbidden from owning land, serving as army officers, holding a bureaucratic job, or practicing law. They were subject to special and steep taxes on their businesses, on kosher meat, and on synagogues. There were even strict quotas limiting Jewish admittance to high schools and universities. Nicholas himself decreed that those same quotas be applied to grammar schools. Because of his action, one-third of all Jewish children aged twelve and under were forbidden from going to school. Nicholas—who believed the world’s Jews were conspiring against him—thoroughly approved of these restrictions. And Rasputin, oh Rasputin. He deserves so many words. It is amazing how much one person can do. How much damage, how much impact, how much everything. Using mostly (or only) his words, his charisma. So convincing was his performance that Alexandra firmly believed Rasputin was God’s messenger, sent to guide them through the war. “I fully trust in Our Friend’s wisdom endowed by God to counsel what is right for you and our country,” she wrote Nicholas soon after he departed for Stavka. “He sees far ahead and therefore his judgment can be relied upon.” It would be fatal, she insisted, not to listen to his advice. And Rasputin had lots of advice—especially about Nicholas’s ministers. The starets felt threatened by these powerful men, most of whom hated him. He wanted them out of his way. But not so he could rule Russia; Rasputin never wanted that. He merely wanted to be left alone to continue his depraved lifestyle. And so, as he’d done with Nikolasha, he began talking against the ministers. Such a manipulative man, and such a brilliant one. The most dangerous combination. Let's say that it didn't end up well. The family got restricted away for a while. And then, their end was coming to them. Too many people needed them dead. There were others that wanted them back. And in such cases, there are enough heartless people that can do anything. A crazy story. I have to say that it was better than The House of Special Purpose by John Boyne, which now makes more sense than when I tried to read it without this context. Almost 4 stars.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Misty Baker

    **As posted on KindleObsessed blog** There is a pretty famous quote by Edmund Burke that says: “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” And, for as much weight as this is worth, I agree one hundred percent. Agreeing however, has done nothing to inspire my desire to learn. It’s fairly safe to assume that (with the exception of maybe 3 key historical figures and 1 major war) I am NOT going to win any history prizes anytime soon. The long and the short of it… I find it difficult to tru **As posted on KindleObsessed blog** There is a pretty famous quote by Edmund Burke that says: “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” And, for as much weight as this is worth, I agree one hundred percent. Agreeing however, has done nothing to inspire my desire to learn. It’s fairly safe to assume that (with the exception of maybe 3 key historical figures and 1 major war) I am NOT going to win any history prizes anytime soon. The long and the short of it… I find it difficult to trudge though facts. I AM A FICTION FAN. As simple as that. I like new worlds, fascinating characters, and excitement. When I pick up a book I want to get lost in the world inside it. Biographies have NEVER done this for me. So, the big question is… Why would I (who claims to have a history aversion) agree to review a 253 page biographical history of the Romanov family and the fall of Imperial Russia? Easy, the Romanov’s fell into my “3 key historical figures” category. Go figure. “From the acclaimed author of Amelia Lost and The Lincolns comes a heartrending narrative nonfiction page-turner—and a perfect resource for meeting Common Core standards. When Russia’s last tsar, Nicholas II, inherited the throne in 1894, he was unprepared to do so. With their four daughters (including Anastasia) and only son, a hemophiliac, Nicholas and his reclusive wife, Alexandra, buried their heads in the sand, living a life of opulence as World War I raged outside their door and political unrest grew into the Russian Revolution. Deftly maneuvering between the lives of the Romanovs and the plight of Russia’s peasants and urban workers—and their eventual uprising—Fleming offers up a fascinating portrait, complete with inserts featuring period photographs and compelling primary-source material that brings it all to life.” I have never had the pleasure of writing a review on a novel that wasn’t based on the imagination, so please bear with me if I stumble around a bit. I’m on rocky ground. But if I was on the outside looking in…these are the things I would want to know. My biggest concern was onslaught of information. Like I said above, I get bogged down by facts. (Thats code for: they make me yawn…a lot.) I can appreciate facts, and I love the ability to throw them out later in conversation, but if the teacher’s (in this case Candace Fleming’s) intent is to make them stick, I need something for them to stick to. Fleming does a wonderful job of this. Not only does she paint an exquisite picture of Russia in the last 1800′s early 1900′s, but she does so in a way that makes you want to keep reading. Incorporating personal antidotes (for example Anastasia’s love of selfies: “I took one picture while looking in the mirror,” she told her father, “and it was hard, because my hands were shaking.”) while at the same time illustrating political unrest (“In cities all across Russia, police arrested anyone suspected of crimes against the tsar, imprisoning or exiling 38,000 so-called politicals, and executing another 5,000. Outspoken workers lost their jobs, their employers threatened with prison if they attempted to rehire them.”) She also allowed each social class (peasants/urban workers/professionals/clergy/nobility) to throw in their two cents by way of quoted excerpts from their OWN novels. (Page 48: “My Childhood” – Alexei Peshkov’s childhood autobiography. Page 96: “An Occupation for Worker’s Daughters” – Aizenshtein’s described life as a shop girl in 1908. etc.) The combination of all of these seemingly random elements made for an impressive narrative, allowing ME the READER to flow with the history unfolding instead of being buried by it. In short…it didn’t read so much like a history “lesson” but more a story of a family, a country, and what happens when people ignore the obvious. By page 40 I realized what I was reading was not at all what I was expecting. Another concern I had was chapter length. While I can read for HOURS when curled up with my favorite fiction novel, I find it decidedly more difficult to read non-fiction for long periods of time. There is (bluntly put) just more to take in. If I were to breeze past 100 pages in a hour I’m going to miss the majority of it, nuances that are necessary to the understanding and reason for the history lesson in the first place. Imperial Russia is better in small chunks WHICH Fleming provided. The novel as a whole is split up into 4 major parts. (Before the Storm, Dark Clouds of Gathering, The Storm Breaks, Final Days) but inside each part are chapters (I Dreamed That I Was Loved, What a Disappointment!, The Reign of Rasputin) and each chapter is only a few pages. For instance chapter 11 is titled: “The Reign of Rasputin” and starts on page 146. Chapter 12 which is titled: “It All Comes Tumbling Down” starts on page 156. To make it even better, there are sub-sections in each chapter breaking periods of time, significant events, and sub-plots such as the introduction of new people, down into a few paragraph. (Leapfrogging Ministers, The Point of No Return, Death to the Starets, The News.) These smaller sections helped to relay pertinent information while maintaining the flow of the “bigger picture.” I found that I could take in more, understand more, and even retain more with Flemings way of delivering information. Need proof? I had a 45 minute conversation with my husband about how WWI started, the number of Russian troops killed within the first 4 days, and how Russian soldiers were limited to 10 bullets a day due to bad planning. I knew NONE of this before I read Fleming’s novel. Even more important…I didn’t care. It was just “information.” I learned (and retained) more about WWI in 5 pages than I could have ever thought possible. And I’m happy that I know it. It’s IMPORTANT that I know it. I can’t sit here and tell you that this book has drastically altered my reading habits, it hasn’t. But I CAN tell you that I’ve never been more impressed while reading a novel of this nature. The history itself is devastating. The Romanov family, the quick acceptance of murder, rebellion, the hardships endured by the peasants, NONE of it is all that “easy to read” when put into perspective. But it’s relayed with class and backed by a significant amount of research. Both of which I can respect and appreciate on a level I never have before. Fleming managed to write a “readable” yet simultaneously detailed account of the Romanov’s and the decimation of their 300 years autocracy. Not an easy feat. I highly recommend this novel to history buffs. But even more…I recommend it to those who think history is a hard lesson. Fleming proves otherwise. Happy reading my fellow Kindle-ites and remember: “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jasmine

    Excellent. Read this as a complement to Carolyn Meyer’s “Anastasia and Her Sisters.” Feel free to hold out on Meyer’s book though - Fleming’s reads way better and is much more engaging.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    Great detailed history of the Russian Revolution. Interesting read. Anyone who likes history books should definitely try this book out.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    (Major understatement here....but) sheeeeesh that was rough.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Courteney Hooks

    Wow, did the animated Anastasia lie to me...

  25. 5 out of 5

    Joan

    It is one of the contestants for BOB (Battle of the Books put on by School Library Journal) and has been talked about as a possible Newbery award title. I found it excellent. Fleming doesn't just drag you through the oh-those-pathetic-children stuff, she goes much deeper. She shows what life was like for the ordinary people under the Tsar's rule (and pointed out things didn't changed much for that class under the Soviets but didn't mention today's life for them which will keep the book from bein It is one of the contestants for BOB (Battle of the Books put on by School Library Journal) and has been talked about as a possible Newbery award title. I found it excellent. Fleming doesn't just drag you through the oh-those-pathetic-children stuff, she goes much deeper. She shows what life was like for the ordinary people under the Tsar's rule (and pointed out things didn't changed much for that class under the Soviets but didn't mention today's life for them which will keep the book from being dated quickly), and she talks about the revolution brought on by the Bolsheviks. A substantial part of the book are really interesting photos. Not just the obvious ones of a wealthy introverted family enjoying life, although that is there. Other obvious but needed photos are of the bullet ridden cellar room where the family was slaughtered. It includes photographic evidence that Alexei, the heir, really did have a miserable time of it (shows a photo of him standing on one leg, unable to stretch the other leg out after a hemophiliac attack) The book also included plenty to show that the Romanov family were not such pleasant people, except to each other. Alexandra, the Tsaritsa, was a religious fanatic who agonized over leaving her Lutheran religion until she found a decent rationalization for doing so since she had to convert to Russian Orthodox if she were marrying the heir to the Russian throne. While I don't get the feeling here that her idiotic worship/friendship of Rasputin contributed much to the actual downfall of the family, it sure didn't help matters. Of course what really mattered is that Nicholas was one if not the wealthiest guy on earth. The Walton family of Walmart infamy here in the United States come off looking pretty impoverished compared to Nicholas. Every YEAR, Nicholas drew an income of $240 million and could always get more if he should run out of that year's allotment. Fleming contrasted this by including fascinating accounts and photos of ordinary people including the macabre information that when an impoverished child died, the family basically considered it good since it meant being able to stretch damn close to nothing a bit further to keep the family alive. A lullaby was included that provides rather horrifying evidence that often parents simply couldn't bring themselves to love or show affection to their kids since they knew a substantial number of them would die in the next few years. To go back to the family, the book included a final note that one of the the Grand Duchesses was a hemophilia carrier in addition to their brother being a hemophiliac. This was discovered when they ran DNA tests on the bones of the family. The tragedy of hemophilia would have likely continued another generation if the girls hadn't all been killed. Since the book went so far beyond the obvious sad story of the doomed Romanov family, this is worthy of the acclaim being heaped on it. Highly recommended for an encompassing look at the world from the unusual point of view of Russia during and after World War I. Got the Sibert Honor award for 2015.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lara

    The Romanov Empire under Tsar Nicholas II was doomed from the start. Nicholas’ father, the overbearing and tyrannical Alexander III, believed that his son was “girlie” and declared him a dunce once in public, and so Nicholas was not groomed or trained in the ways of government or governing. At the age of 30, Nicholas became tsar, completely unprepared and ill-equipped to lead Russia. He married Queen Victoria’s granddaughter, Alix (named Alexandra upon her conversion to Russian Orthodoxy), short The Romanov Empire under Tsar Nicholas II was doomed from the start. Nicholas’ father, the overbearing and tyrannical Alexander III, believed that his son was “girlie” and declared him a dunce once in public, and so Nicholas was not groomed or trained in the ways of government or governing. At the age of 30, Nicholas became tsar, completely unprepared and ill-equipped to lead Russia. He married Queen Victoria’s granddaughter, Alix (named Alexandra upon her conversion to Russian Orthodoxy), shortly after the death of his father, causing the Russian people to refer to Alexandra as the “funeral bride,” and calling the marriage a bad omen. Instead of taking up residence in the Winter Palace, located centrally in the capital of St. Petersberg, Nicholas and Alexandra chose to reside in the simplest palace located in the countryside. They had four daughters before finally giving birth to a son who would become heir, but only after consulting the mystic “Dr.” Phillipe. When their son, Alexei, was diagnosed as a hemophiliac, once again they turned to mystic medicine, enlisting the “holy man” Rasputin to help alleviate Alexei’s pain and suffering. Meanwhile, Nicholas was making horrible political decisions, further alienating the poverty-stricken peasants, and clamping down on the growing call for a more democratic form of government. World War I brought more bad decisions, and soon the soldiers were also suffering because of the government’s refusal to face reality and pay for winter boots, coats, ammunition, and other basic necessities. Nicholas left Alexandra in charge of running Russia while he went off to Stavka to act as Commander in Chief of the Army. With the insane Rasputin advising Alexandra on how to run the country, things fell apart rapidly. Beseeched by his ministers to DO something to quell the tide of unrest throughout Russia, Nicholas continued to be oblivious and insisted that everything was fine. Revolution inevitably broke out, and the family was rounded up and imprisoned in their own palace. They were all ultimately moved to Siberia where they were executed along with a few staff members and one of the family dogs. If you’re looking for a nonfiction book that reads like a historical thriller, is filled with intrigue, violence, and presents multiple sides of the same story, look no further. As I was reading this gripping tale, I was constantly brought back to reality by the intermittent sections of alternative primary source history filled with the voices of the peasants, the soldiers, and the revolutionaries. Whenever I was tempted to feel sorry for any of the Romanovs, I would read the stories of peasants dying of starvation while the Romanov children misbehaved and played tricks on their tutors; or tales of soldiers who were led like lambs to the slaughter against the enemy while Nicholas spent his time taking walks, naps, watching movies, or listening to music on his phonograph. The contrast, carefully orchestrated by Candace Fleming, was palpable. The message, that history is never black and white, was crystal clear. Highly recommended for grades 7-12.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Meg - A Bookish Affair

    4.5 stars. "The Family Romanov" is a non-fiction history book that looks at Russia's last Tsar and his family. The book is geared for young adult readers but I believe that readers of many different ages will get something out of this book. This book is not only the history of the Romanov family but Fleming also shows what else was going on throughout Russia and that is really the part that makes this a stand out book for those who want a better understanding of what happened to the Romanov fami 4.5 stars. "The Family Romanov" is a non-fiction history book that looks at Russia's last Tsar and his family. The book is geared for young adult readers but I believe that readers of many different ages will get something out of this book. This book is not only the history of the Romanov family but Fleming also shows what else was going on throughout Russia and that is really the part that makes this a stand out book for those who want a better understanding of what happened to the Romanov family as well as the factors that led to their horrible demise. It is obvious that Fleming did copious amounts of research in order to bring the Romanov family and Russia to life for the readers. Her effort is well worth it as it really gave this book an edge over a lot of other books that I have read on the Revolution. This book also marks one of the few books that I have read on the Romanovs that falls under the banner of YA non-fiction. I appreciated how Fleming was able to make the events in this book accessible to younger readers without dumbing anything down. I really liked how she looked at actual correspondence about and from the Tsar and his family. I really thought that added something special to the book and really brought the historical events to life for me. I love books about history but it's really easy for those books to focus on the big historical event and you kind of lose the context of what else was happening during the same period. Tsar Nicholas II's Russia was a place of great turmoil. There was a lot of poverty in the country. The poverty and despair throughout the country led to the anger and the subsequent political upheaval in the country The world was staring down the barrel of the first World War. Fleming has sections in the book that focus on some of the everyday Russians that were dealing with poverty and unrest. It was really interesting to see the juxtaposition between the sheer opulence of the Romanov's lifestyle and that of the Russian peasants. Overall, this was a really good look at an important historical event!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sunday

    Extremely well written, appealing and accessible. While I knew the ending, I didn't want to put it down. Fleming not only tells the story of this family, but also of the world around them - starving peasants and academics, workers without rights, terrible living conditions and so forth--much of which the royal family took for granted or ignored, leading to their demise. The ideas and details in this book are haunting me because they resonate with many current issues in the 21st century world - E Extremely well written, appealing and accessible. While I knew the ending, I didn't want to put it down. Fleming not only tells the story of this family, but also of the world around them - starving peasants and academics, workers without rights, terrible living conditions and so forth--much of which the royal family took for granted or ignored, leading to their demise. The ideas and details in this book are haunting me because they resonate with many current issues in the 21st century world - Egypt, Syria, and the gap between the rich and the poor in the U.S. even. I'd recommend for 8th grade and up--independent reading or reading in a literature circle or for a savvy 7th grade reader with background knowledge about this period. There could be some amazing discussion about Fleming's choice of details and how she weaves primary sources into the narrative as well as the central ideas in the book. Also, Fleming makes an interesting point in her author's notes about how thoughts about the Tsar and his family were, for many decades, based on former nobility's fond memories of the times with family, nobility that fled to Europe when the Soviets took control. For decades citizens of this part of the world were forbidden to talk about the murder of this family. With the fall of Communism in 1991, though, the outside world was allowed to access Nicholas' diaries and letters as well as diaries written by the children and to gain a better idea of what these people were like. There was also access to documents related to the investigation of the family's murder with accounts from villagers and even the man who was in charge of their execution. It would make for interesting conversation to compare a book or text written about the Romanov family prior to 1991 and this one by Fleming. This book has received much well-deserved recognition and many awards including NCTE's Orbis Pictus Award for 2015 and ALA's Sibert Honor Award 2015.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Luciana Nery

    A page-turner even to someone who has had 3 or 4 books in this same theme. Superb storytelling, and it did change my views about the personalities of the czar Nicholas and czarina Alexandra. I had always thought of them as being aloof and unsophisticated, caught in something much bigger than themselves. Now I believe they were actively unintelligent, provincial and neglectful. Their decisions were ill-informed, petty and disproportionate and led to situations way beyond what they could grasp. Th A page-turner even to someone who has had 3 or 4 books in this same theme. Superb storytelling, and it did change my views about the personalities of the czar Nicholas and czarina Alexandra. I had always thought of them as being aloof and unsophisticated, caught in something much bigger than themselves. Now I believe they were actively unintelligent, provincial and neglectful. Their decisions were ill-informed, petty and disproportionate and led to situations way beyond what they could grasp. They chose mysticism, irrationality and the influence of Rasputin in all matters of state - including multiple changes to the Ministry of War right in the middle of the war. The czar and czarina had the means of reacting and work towards appeasing people, building alliances and putting an effort towards WWI - at the height of the war the Czar would wake up at 10am, read his letters, have lunch, take a nap, and then in late afternoon meet with his advisors. In short, an easy read you can't put away for the duration. It also does respect the best knowledge available today about this theme.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kristine

    This is my current top pick for Newbery brass. Are there some books I might enjoy more? Sure. But this is the most distinguished in what it attempts to do (tell the story of the fall of the Romanov empire, and do so in a nuanced way that explains political societal and familial power dynamics, and oh by the way write it in 250 pages and in a way that a 12 year old would be both engaged and educated?). It seems an impossible task. I couldn't put the book down - watching the worst case possible sc This is my current top pick for Newbery brass. Are there some books I might enjoy more? Sure. But this is the most distinguished in what it attempts to do (tell the story of the fall of the Romanov empire, and do so in a nuanced way that explains political societal and familial power dynamics, and oh by the way write it in 250 pages and in a way that a 12 year old would be both engaged and educated?). It seems an impossible task. I couldn't put the book down - watching the worst case possible scenario play out in every single turn was maddening and improbable. The romanov's incompetency was mind blowing, but Fleming provided enough context to show how it had developed. The trials of the Russian people, my heart breaks to read of the past 100 years of brutal rule -sigh. I'm just feeling so melancholy at the end of it all. I suppose that's part of its magic, as I stare into the eyes of the Romanov family picture on the front cover, I'm filled with feelings of pity, disgust, compassion, and derision. Five full stars. PS the only downfall? The esteem of my favorite princess movie, Anastasia. :(

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