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Monday, February 15, 2010

The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander

Genre: Historical Fiction

Copyright: 2004

Pages: 229

Rating: 4.5/5 Crowns

Synopsis: (From Amazon) Drawing from decades of work, travel, and research in Russia, Robert Alexander re-creates the tragic, perennially fascinating story of the final days of Nicholas and Alexandra as seen through the eyes of the Romanovs’ young kitchen boy, Leonka. Now an ancient Russian immigrant, Leonka claims to be the last living witness to the Romanovs’ brutal murders and sets down the dark secrets of his past with the imperial family. Does he hold the key to the many questions surrounding the family’s murder? Historically vivid and compelling, The Kitchen Boy is also a touching portrait of a loving family that was in many ways similar, yet so different, from any other.

Review: The story is told by Misha - an old man who came from Russia and settled near Chicago. After the death of his wife, he figures his own time will not be far away and he tape records his childhood story as the kitchen boy to the Romanovs. He leaves the recording and a package of papers for his granddaughter Kate and hope she doesn't discover the real truth.

Misha - or Leonka as he was known then - went into captivity with the Romanovs along with a few of their other personal attendants. As his position indicates, he took them their meals and helped in the kitchen. He became in some ways a part of their family and conveys his thoughts and impressions of each member of the Romanov family. On the night the family is executed, Leonka is taken from the family and manages to escape. Upon Misha's death, his story begins to unravel to his granddaughter and she is convinced that Misha's "telling" of his story is not quite the truth. Through a somewhat hasty description of her efforts, she discovers that her grandfather's life held an even greater secret.

This is an intriguing story and full of twists and surprises right up to the end. Alexander is a great story teller and draws you into the lives of the Romanovs with lots of little historical details and facts and you come to know them as a warm, loving family who really had no idea about what was coming. At times the pace is a little slow and it seems like not much happens, but the ending more than makes up for it! This was the first book I read about the Romanovs and even though I knew the basics of their story, I was definitely inspired to find out more.

For more information about the Romanovs, I highly recommend a couple of non-fiction books by Robert Massie: Nicholas and Alexandra and The Romanovs: The Final Chapter.


Marg said...

I loved reading the three books that Robert Alexander wrote about this period in Russian history. I am hoping that there will be new books from him soon.

ibeeeg said...

I am not familiar with this part of history. Your review has certainly intrigued me.
I am putting this book on my tbr list.

Anonymous said...

I've had this one recommended to me by a friend. It sounds rather good and I love history. Thanks for your review. :)

Holly said...

Great review Daphne. I loved the Kitchen Boy! I saw a book in B&N the other day called The Last Days of the Romanovs by Helen Rappaport. I'll have to check out the Massie books :)

Daphne said...

Marg - I read The Romanov Bride (which I also enjoyed). I hope he is writing another book as well - I haven't seen anything yet as to what he might be working on.

ibeeeg and Michelle - I hope you get a chance to read it!

Holly - I know there are several books out there on the Romanovs. Massie's are the only non-fiction ones I have read so far but they are excellent. The Final Chapter details how the remains of the family were found and identified as well as an analysis of the Anna Anderson story. Sort of a "CSI meets history".

Amy @ Passages to the Past said...

Fabulous review Daphne! I haven't read any books by this author, but I really need to rectify that and I think I may start with this one!

The Romanov story is intriguing, sad, but intriguing!

Thank you for the great review!

Alaine - Queen of Happy Endings said...

I will add this one to my TBR list, it sounds great!

Teddyree said...

Enjoyed your review, I haven't read anything by this author but I've been fond of Russian history since reading The Bronze Horseman.

Daphne said...

Amy and Alaine - I hope you enjoy it!

Teddyree - I love The Bronze Horseman and the second book in the trilogy (Tatiana and Alexander) as well. I wasn't too fond of the The Summer Garden (the third book) though.