I’ve decided to start having a series of blogposts about my Top 5 picks. Whether this be a fashion, beauty, film, television series or books, I’ll pick out my Top 5 choices, offer a small review, and the chance to buy these picks as gifts or for yourself.
But for my first one, I thought I’d do something on a topic that I know extensively. An ongoing obsession/fascination of mine is Imperial Russia, and mainly focusing on the rule of the last Tsar and his family. I’ll be updating a complete 2016 blogpost on all the reference books I have on them soon, but here is just a little snippet of what books I personally consider my favourites.
1: Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie
This is my favourite book of the entire collection. I’ve had it for many years, and the reason I love it so is because not only does it focus on the last Tsar, but it is also a really good introductory piece for people who want to start reading around his family and the lead-up to the Revolution. Some of the reference books you can buy can be very in depth and overwhelming, and for seasoned Russian historians like myself, that isn’t a problem. But for people who are interested in the whole Anastasia mystery, and want to learn a little bit more of the historical side, Massie’s text is good for them. The way Massie writes is in a very readable and clear style, and it is obvious how well researched this book was. The amount of detail he goes into is very good, and he writes contextually too. So you get the fullest picture of Russia at the time. What also makes this book interesting is the emotional way he deals with the tsarevich’s illness, which Massie himself had to deal with fir
st-hand when his own son was diagnosed with haemophilia. This very personal touch made the book even more readable and heartfelt. This text is definitely a recommended read, as it opens up the Romanovs to an audience who may just be discovering them.
To buy the book – Waterstones/Amazon
2: A Lifelong Passion: Nicholas and Alexandra – Their Own Story’ by Andrei Maylunas and Sergei Mironenko
This is an unique book in the fact that it tells the story of Nicholas and Alexandra but through their own letters, diary entries and letter they exchanged with family members. This truly brings to light the love the pair showed for each other, and how they perceived the world around them and the changes that were happening in the time they lived in.
In my mind, there’s was the greatest love story ever. And just by reading the letters they wrote to each other during long months of separation, you’ll see what I mean. I find it fascinating that if you compare how they felt when they first started courting, to years after when they were writing during WWI and had been married for years with five children, the love never seems to change. It just gets stronger, with the same amount of passion and yearning for each other. It’s truly moving.
Also, what I find interesting is how they address the political climate in which they lived. The Russian Revolution has been written and studied about for decades, but to hear how the real people of the time were dealing with it adds to a very interesting and enlightening read.
This is a perfect book to take with you on travels, as you can pick and choose sections that you want to read, and immerse yourself in the romance.
To buy the book – Amazon
3: Ekaterinburg – The Last Days of the Romanovs by Helen Rappaport and The Murder of the Romanovs by Andrew Cook.
I honestly couldn’t choose between these two books. The deaths of the Romanovs have been sensationalised and covered by the media so much that it’s good to find two books who just seem to deal with the facts. These two books cover the deaths, naturally, but also what happened after in some detail, especially with the controversial topic on whether somebody survived.
What I love about the Rappaport book is that it also dedicates chapters to Nicholas, Alexandra, the girls and Alexei – which I love reading as it just gives overviews on them. The chapter about the girls is probably my favourite as it dedicates large passages just to the girls mannerisms and personalities, which I find fascinating as since Anastasia has become the “famous” one out of the sisters, the rest of them seem to have been forgotten in a sense. So learning that these girls also had dreams and hope like the rest of the family is a strong reminder that they too suffered. The Rappaport book also gives some details about the situation after the death, with mentions of Anna Anderson and concluding it beautifully with the chapter ‘The Scent of Lillies’.
The Cook book draws from more source-related material and deals with the death but also the discovery of the bodies and the identification of the bodies. Definitely a more scholarly book than the Rappaport, but it is no less as well done as it does go into the unseen police footage and documents concerning what happened on that day. Despite being harder to read and definitely not for the light-of-heart, I would recommend this book as it does draw on a different approach in writing about the Romanovs.
Both these books together give any reader enough information concerning what happened in detail.
To buy Ekaterinburg – Amazon/Waterstones
To buy Murder of the Romanovs – Amazon/Waterstones
4: The Russian Court at Sea: The Last Day of a Great Dynasty by Frances Welch
This is a relatively new and interesting book, mainly because it doesn’t focus on the last Tsar in a sense but what happened to his extended family after Nicholas and Alexandra’s deaths.
It tells the story of when 17 of the Russian royal family went into exile on the HMS Marlborough in April 1919, carrying some of the most prominent members of the family – including Nicholas II mother, his sister and the Crown Prince Felix Yussapov, once coming from the richest family in Russia and cited as Rasputin’s murder.
It details the family’s flee from Russia, with remnants of their old grand life – priceless pieces of art and jewelry – wrapped up and stored in blankets and the frankly bizarre experience it was for all of them and those aboard the Marlborough.
This is a interesting book, because it does follow where the Romanov lines stretch out all over Europe and America and shows the rapid decline from riches-to-rags that some of them faced, and it doesn’t focus on Nicholas at all. It focuses on how their deaths affect the family and how they, in effect, continued the Romanov line away from Russia and their people.
This is a breath-of-fresh-air novel for giving a different view on what happened to the Romanovs, and I highly recommend it.
To buy this book – Waterstones/Amazon
5: The Romanovs: Love, Power and Tragedy by A.N. Bokhanov
The jewel of my collection. This book is a real gem, and an incredibly hard-to-get book for a good deal, but believe me, it’s so worth the money you spend.
Full to the brink of unseen photos of the family, and fascinating insight to the family. The written information isn’t necessarily new in that sense that you could read it anywhere else, but it is the photographs you pay for. It also features diary extracts, scans of unseen letters and everything you need for a visual treat. It’s emotional in some places, just because you do see how the family functioned, not as a royal family but like a normal one and it does beat all over rivals for a photographic book about the Romanovs.
So beautifully illustrated, this is not to be missed! It is also a surprisingly large and heavy book, but well worth the money. I can’t explain to you how much any Romanov fans should get this book.I don’t think I can explain how much I love this book and cherish it in my collection.
To buy this book – Amazon.
So, here are my Top 5 Romanov books. I’ve been collecting books on The Romanovs for years, and there are both positives and negatives for all the books I own. But, I really do recommend these books, as they give you a good insight and starter information for the Russian royal family. So, if you have any questions, please let me know!