The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia
There are a multitude of books written for adult readers on the last Russian dynasty. A good handful of literature centers on the tsar and his empress, Nikolai Alexandrovich Romanov and Alexandra Feodorovna, while others concentrate on the royal couple's four daughters, or their only heir, Alexei. Yet what sets THE FAMILY ROMANOV apart is that it is not only the most current narrative on this subject, but also the most in-depth historical account specifically allocated for young adults.
Determined to answer a question that kept nagging her, Candace Fleming spent three years gathering research that would address the hows and whys of what led up to this opulent family's gruesome demise. Author of a wide-spectrum of children’s and young adult literature, Fleming divided her painstaking information into four chronologically arranged sections. Aptly entitled Before the Storm, Dark Clouds Gathering, The Storm Breaks, and Final Days, these segments make up three stories in one book. As Fleming states, "The first is an intimate look at the Romanovs themselves. The second follows the sweep of revolution from the workers' strikes of 1905 to Lenin's rise to power in November 1917. And the third --- conveyed in their own words --- is the personal stories of the men and women whose struggle for a better life directly affected the course of the Romanovs' lives."
"...not only the most current narrative on this subject, but also the most in-depth historical account specifically allocated for young adults."
Before the Storm provides a window into Nicholas' childhood, his courtship with Alix of Hesse, the couple's hastily-planned wedding, their long-awaited heir and the secrecy of the heir's incurable disease. Fleming contrasts the Romanov's lifestyle with poignant and somber first-person accounts of what life was like concurrently for peasants. Dark Clouds Gathering describes the stark disparity growing between the reclusive Romanovs and the remainder of Russian society, and Rasputin, the mysterious so-called prophet, who healed the sickly heir. A great dichotomy immerges as unrest builds in the country while the tsar and empress emphatically deny the turbulent news. Once again, Fleming juxtaposes hauntingly disturbing personal accounts that reflect the despairingly overwhelming economic conditions affecting Russian citizens.
Turmoil continuing to spread across Russia and its bordering countries, part three --- The Storm Breaks --- expands not only on the country's frail economic environs, but also the ever-weakening political sphere as Russia enters into what is later known as World War I, and the end of 304 years of Romanov rule. Included are the roles the Romanov women play in the war, the notorious Rasputin's bizarre stronghold on the affluent family and his demise and Fleming's addition of pertinent individual narratives. Final Days, of course, is the most gripping aspect of the Romanov tale. While Lenin takes control and they are moved from one location to the next under the guise of protection, the Romanovs are absolutely clueless as well as in complete denial of the truth --- up to the very end of their demise. Fleming closes with more personal accounts that reflect Russia's economic and political tenor, the various rumors that accompany the family's puzzling disappearance and the discovery of their clandestine burial and DNA findings.
Fleming states, "as of this writing, the remains of the last two Romanovs' have yet to be buried. Instead, they lie in a cardboard box in Moscow's State Archive of the Russian Federation, waiting for the day when they will once again be, as Nicholas called them, 'a small family circle.'' Incredibly spellbinding from cover to cover, THE FAMILY ROMANOV is replete with a plethora of pictures (some taken by Fleming herself), and primary, general and online resources for further reading. A must read, indeed, for ALL ages!
Reviewed by Anita Lock on July 30, 2014