January 2014 by Schwartz & Wade
From the acclaimed author of Amelia Lost and The Lincolns comes a heartrending narrative nonfiction page-turner. 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.
This was a really interesting read. I was surprised by some of the things I learned, like that the Romanovs were not all killed the very night of the revolution as Bolsheviks stormed the imperial palace. Granted, all of my previous knowledge about the Romanovs came from the movie Anastasia, so it's not like I was any sort of expert on the family or that time period or anything at all about Russia. But it still surprised me. We (I) internalize probably far too much of the faux history presented in fictional tales.
The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia (great title by the way, I love long titles) is more than just a biography of Nicholas Romanov. It is more even than a biography of him and his family. This book covers the the legacy of the Romanovs, Nicholas and his family, his poor decisions as a ruler, the Russian aristocracy, the Russian peasantry, the development of the Bolsheviks, Lenin, civil unrest, the revolution, the early attempts at democracy, the transition to communism, the reality of communist Russia not living up to Lenin's ideals, the rise of Stalin, the execution of the royal family, conspiracy theories about the potential escape of some of the royal children, and the discovery of the Romanovs' bodies years later. Not bad for a children's nonfiction.
Fleming takes this ambitious scope and presents a narrative that is both interesting and easy to follow. We really get to know Nicholas and the other Romanovs and we sympathize with them as people. But we also see how their awful decisions and their oppression of the people led to civil unrest and eventually revolution.
I listened to this on audiobook (which was great for the pronunciations I never would have gotten on my own), so I missed out on all the great photographs in the physical copy. I've heard they're amazing, so I'll have to drop in at the library and flip through a copy so I can see them.