Review of The Family Romanov

fleming romanov Review of The Family Romanovstar2 Review of The Family Romanov The Family Romanov:
Murder, Rebellion, and
the Fall of Imperial Russia

by Candace Fleming
Middle School, High School    
Schwartz & Wade/Random    287 pp.
7/14    978-0-375-86782-8    $18.99
Library ed.  978-0-375-96782-5    $21.99    g
e-book ed.  978-0-375-89864-8    $10.99

Marrying the intimate family portrait of Heiligman’s Charles and Emma (rev. 1/09) with the politics and intrigue of Sheinkin’s Bomb (rev. 11/12), Fleming has outdone herself with this riveting work of narrative nonfiction that appeals to the imagination as much as the intellect. Her focus here is not just the Romanovs, the last imperial family of Russia, but the Revolutionary leaders and common people as well. She cogently and sympathetically demonstrates how each group was the product of its circumstances, then how they all moved inexorably toward the tragic yet fascinating conclusion. Each member of the Romanov family emerges from these pages as a fully realized individual, but their portraits are balanced with vignettes that illuminate the lives of ordinary people, giving the book a bracing context missing from Massie’s Nicholas and Alexandra, still the standard popular history. The epic, sweeping narrative seamlessly incorporates scholarly authority, primary sources, appropriate historical speculation, and a keen eye for the most telling details. Moreover, the juxtaposition of the supremely privileged lifestyle of Russian nobility with the meager subsistence of peasants, factory workers, and soldiers creates a narrative tension that builds toward the horrifying climax. Front and back matter include a map, genealogy, bibliography, and source notes, while two sixteen-page inserts contain numerous captioned photographs.

From the July/August 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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About Jonathan Hunt

Jonathan Hunt is a school librarian for the Modesto City Schools District in California.

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