Skip to main content

Review: The Last Days of the Romanovs, by Helen Rappaport

The Last Days of the Romanovs is the story of the last fourteen-ish days of the lives of the Romanov family during their stay at Ipatiev House (aka “The House of Special Purposes”) in Yekaterinburg (oddly, Rappaport spells it as “Ekaterinburg” here), up until their murder two weeks later, on July 17th 1918. It may be a nonfiction account, but parts of this book read as though they’re fiction.

Each chapter ostensible covers each day leading up to the murders, but the author gives her reader a lot of background information on the Revolution, the Romanov family, and the people involved in their demise. It’s a pretty readable book in the sense that the prose is fairly straightforward, and there are no footnotes to bog the reader down. Rappaport portrays the Romanov family sympathetically, as a group of people victimized by circumstance and out of control of their own destinies. This book is a good introduction to the subject, and a good work of popular history overall.

There was a lot of interesting information here; for example, I didn’t know that the Romanovs were so fluent in English (though it shouldn’t be surprising, considering George V of Britain was Tsar Nicholas’s cousin, and that Queen Victoria was Tsaritsa Alexandra’s grandmother). The book is also accompanied by two sets of reproductions of photos.

My only complaint about this well-written book is Rappaport’s rather bizarre transliterations of Russian names (I only have a year of college Russian under my belt, and that years ago, but I’m still puzzling over why the author chose to spell the Tsarevich Alexei’s name as Alexey, or why she chose to spell commandant Avadeyev’s name as “Avdeev”).


Alyce said…
It does sound like an interesting book. Those spellings of the names are a little strange, but I guess as long as they were consistent throughout the book it wouldn't bother me too much. Of course, I haven't taken Russian. :)
Jen said…
Oh good, I have this on hold at the library, I'm glad you enjoyed it.
I haven't read much about the Romanov's and have been looking forward to this one...glad to see that it's worth reading! Really great review!
S. Krishna said…
This sounds interesting!
Jo said…
I've been fascinated by the Romanov's since I did Russian History at school. I might have to look for this.
Arleigh said…
I'm very interested in this book since I read The Kitchen Boy a few weeks ago. Thanks for the review!
Your blog has been nominated for a Sisterhood Award. Details can be found at Love to come visit frequently.

Popular posts from this blog

Review: Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor

Pages: 972 Originally published: 1944 My edition: 2000 (Chicago Review Press) How I acquired my copy:, 2004

Forever Amber takes place in the 1660s, immediately follwing Charles II's ("the Merry Monarch") return of the Stuarts to the English throne. The book features Amber St. Claire, a young woman who starts out as a sixteen-year-old country girl, naieve to the workings of the world. She immediately meets Bruce Carlton, a dashing young Cavalier, with whom she has a passionate love affair in choppy intervals throughout the book. They have two children together, but Bruce won't marry her for the reason he tells his friend Lord Almsbury: that Amber just isn't the kind of woman one marries.

Upon following Bruce to London, he goes to Virginia, leaving her to fend for herself. What follows is a series of affairs and four marriages, with Bruce coming back from America now and then. Amber's marriages are imprudent: her first husband is a gambler, her second is…

Review: Jane Austen's Letters, ed. by Deirdre Le Faye

Pages: 667 Original date of publication: 2011 My copy: 2011 (Oxford University Press) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy:, April 2013
This is a compilation of many of Jane Austen’s letters, most of them sent to her sister Cassandra between 1796 and 1817, the year of her death. Although many of Austen’s letters were destroyed by her sister in order to preserve the family reputation, the collection contains over 160 letters in which Austen gives her sister details about her life in Chawton—as well as giving us a tantalizing glimpse of what was going through her mind as she was writing her novels (especially the novel that was to become Pride and Prejudice, First Impressions). There are other letters here, too, giving advice to her niece and professional correspondence to publishers—as well as a couple of letters that were written by Cassandra Austen after Jane’s death.
To the sisters, the letters acted in the way that phone calls do today; Austen’s news is all about pe…

Review: Midnight in Peking, by Paul French

Pages: 259 Original date of publication: 2013 My copy: 2013 (Penguin) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy: Phoenix bookstore, May 2013
In January 1937, the body of a young British girl, Pamela Werner, was found near Peking’s Fox Tower. Although two detectives, one British and the other Chinese, spent months on the case, the case was never solved completely, and the case was forgotten in the wake of the invasion of the Japanese. Frustrated, Pamela’s father, a former diplomat, tried to solve the crime. His investigation took him into the underbelly of Peking society and uncovered a secret that was worse than anything he could have imagined.
At first, I thought that this would be a pretty straightforward retelling of a true crime, but what Paul French (who spent seven years researching the story) reveals in this book is much more than that. Foreign society in Peking in the 1930s was stratified, with the British colonials at the top and the White Russian refugees at the bottom, but…