GrUpThe tragic Romanovs, last imperial family of Russia, have long held tremendous fascination The interest generated by this family is intense, from debates about Duchess Anastasia and her survival to the discovery of their pathetic mass graves A significant number of post Glasnost Russian citizens consider the Romanovs holy to the extent that the Russian Orthodox Church has canonized them This well researched and well annotated book provides information not only on the history of these famous figures but also on the Russian people living at the time and on the social conditions that contributed to the family s demise The narrative alternates between a straightforward recounting of the Romanovs lives and primary source narratives of peasants lives The contrast is compelling and enhances understanding of how the divide between the extremely rich and the very poor can lead directly to violent and dramatic political change While the description and snippets on the serfs and factory workers are workmanlike, the pictures painted of the reclusive and insular Romanovs is striking Unsuited to the positions in which they found themselves, Nicholas and Alexandra raised their children in a bubble, inadequately educating them and providing them only slight exposure to society The informative text illuminates their inability to understand the social conditions in Russia and the impact it might have had on them This is both a sobering work, and the account of the discovery of their bones and the aftermath is at once fascinating and distressing A solid resource and good recreational reading for high school studentsAnn Welton, Grant Elementary School, Tacoma, WAStarred Review History comes to vivid life in Flemings sweeping story of the dramatic decline and fall of the House of Romanov Her account provides not only intimate portraits of Tsar Nicholas his wife, Alexandra and the five Romanov children, but it also offers a beautifully realized examination of the context of their livesRussia in a state of increasing social unrest and turmoil The latter aspect is shown in part through generous excerpts from letters, diaries, memoirs, andthat are seamlessly interspersed throughout the narrative All underscore the incredible disparity between the glittering lives of the Romanovs and the desperately impoverished ones of the peasant population Instead of attempting to reform this, Nicholas simply refused to acknowledge its presence, rousing himself only long enough to order savage repression of the occasional uprising Fleming shows that the hapless tsar was ill equipped to discharge his duties, increasingly relying on Alexandra for guidance unfortunately, at the same time, she was increasingly reliant on the counsel of the evil monk Rasputin The end, when it came, was swift andfor the Romanovs, who were brutally murderedterrible Compulsively readable, Flemings artful work of narrative history is splendidly researched and documented For readers who regard history as dull, Flemings extraordinary book is proof positive that, on the contrary, it is endlessly fascinating, absorbing as any novel, and the stuff of an altogether memorable reading experience Grades Michael Cart