Wednesday, March 18, 2009
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”).