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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on 28 September 2013
This is a well-written review of the reign of Russia's last Tsar Nicholas and his wife Alexandra. Be aware of two things - if you want facts you're better off looking in an encyclopaedia than a history book (although there are plenty of facts in the book) and secondly this book was written in the late 60s so feels a little dated. Even for those of us who remember and experienced the Soviet Union at first hand, talk of Soviet era politics and mores feels like another universe. That is not to say that this is not a thoroughly researched book. (I am certainly not qualified to comment on the accuracy of any facts stated in the book.) However, this is a book with a very clear thesis about the reign of Nicholas and Alexandra and what, above all, went wrong. Massie's thesis is that Nicholas and Alexandra's troubles could to a large extent be traced to one source - the fact that their only son and heir suffered from haemophilia. Massie writes exceptionally perceptively and movingly about the Tsarevich's illness, how painful its symptoms were, the mother's agony at knowing that she had passed it on to her son (having inherited the faulty gene) and the difficulty of treating it and her desperation to try any treatment that might ease his suffering. I found the author's theory very compelling but I have not read enough about this era to know whether other historians of the period may have comprehensively rubbished the theory since the book was written. In any event, it is a compelling read based on thorough scholarship. Even if you profoundly disagree with Massie's sympathetic view of Nicholas and Alexandra you will not feel that you wasted your time reading it.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 5 October 2014
This is an absolutely engrossing account of the story of Tzar Nicholas II and his family. The story begins with Nicholas, his early years, his eventual marriage to Alexandra of Hesse und bei Rhein (although here she is referred to as Alexandra of Hesse-Darmstadt); and covers their life together and the triumphs and failures of his reign as the last tzar of all the Russias. The author's main thesis is that the downfall of the Romanov dynasty was the result of the haemophilia inherited by their son and heir, Alexis. After having produced four daughters and obviously not wanting to alarm the country that the heir to the Russian throne might not live long enough to actually reign, the tzar and his family chose to close themselves off from the public and remain intensely private. Unfortunately this did not help their popularity at a time when the country was turning against them. Plus, because of the incredible pain of watching her son suffer, Alexandra turned to the mysterious Rasputin for help. Her reliance on him, a shady and immoral character, and his over-involvement in government turned the people further against them and their downfall became inevitable, as they could not explain Rasputin's presense for fear of acknowledging Alexis's haemophilia. Whether Rasputin really was the reason for the end of the dynasty, as Massie suggests, or just the catalyst remains to be discussed, but the story is still a fascinating one. The descriptions of life in Imperial Russia are beautiful and the tender story of the family's personal life is touching, but like many of the reviewers I found that the author has a particular soft-spot for the Tsar and therefore explains away many of his (and his wife's) very real mistakes. But the account of the last Tzar is so interesting for many reasons, not least of which is their tragic and horrifying end. This is a great book to begin a study of Russian history and I highly recommend it.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on 2 April 2013
Like the previous reviewer I bought this for 99p and have yet to finish it but so far I am totally engrossed in the story.

It is so well and clearly written and each character so well described that you can understand how chains of events happened. I knew how closely all the royal families were related but didn't realise how close they were also. Or how differently history could have gone. For example the whole family (meaning queen Victoria's) had wanted Alexandra to marry George V's older brother who died. You can only think 'what if ....'

Tsar Nicholas appears to have been a good man, thrust into this terrifyingly powerful position at a young age with no experience due to the early death of his father. In awe and under the influence of his powerful and strong minded uncles, he made mistakes right from the outset of his reign. The fact that his mother and wife did not like each other didn't help matters.

I would say the chapters are fairly long and this is not the type of book you can easily dip in and out of, that's why as I work at a school I've saved it for the Easter holidays.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 11 February 2014
A book i could not put down, well worth reading ,you will find yourself totally engrossed in the world of the Last Czar and his family.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 17 May 2014
For me, this remains the best account of the life of Tsar Nicholas and the fall of the Romanov dynasty. The book is both highly informative and very readable. Facts are mixed expertly into a gripping narrative. Also, the book is very well structured to make a complex political situation easy to understand. While remaining factual, the reader is offered what feels like a personal encounter with the Tsar and his family. Recommended without reservation.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 19 November 2013
I am still reading this book - it's immensely interesting and you begin to see why the different royal families during the beginning of the 20th Century were quite heavily to blame for the appalling loss of life in the first world war. The Tsarina, infact, seemed to be in need of help for her mental problems. Still, a fascinating read.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 22 November 2013
I found this book compelling, fascinating and so sad. The whole story kept me enthralled even though I knew there could only be one outcome. This was a history lesson full of so much information made so interesting that it has awakened my need to find out more about our monarchy, and how it was intertwined with so many other parts of the world.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 16 July 2014
It's okay read but if you want a thoroughly researched book into the revolution and the characters in it I would look elsewhere. There is 75% of conjecture and opinion and sometimes the author slips into a mills and boon romantic type novel with lots of descriptive mush that cannot be verified/accounted for. The book is not particularly balanced and is at odds with other historians when it comes to the personality and intelligence of the tsar. The way the author deals with the tragic last days of the tsar and his family and the inhumane way in which they were dealt with is probably the most incisive part of the book............. Readable but thats about it.
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on 8 July 2015
Having studied the Russian language and spent time in Russia as a university student I have long been interested in the history of the country. The last Tsar and his family and their sad fate has always intrigued me.

Robert K Massie has written an excellent, if lengthy book, covering the span of Nicholas' life. We are given the background to his family, his marriage to the German Alexandra, and his journey through family and political life. Mr Massie also gives us good background on other important characters in the story such as Lenin and Rasputin, as well as major events of national and world importance, especially World War 1. The book is detailed and thorough in its approach, but is still very readable by the layman.

It took me quite a long time to read the book, but I'm glad that I did so. I felt that Robert Massie gave a very balanced approach, presenting the information as gathered from various sources. I certainly didn't feel that he was taking any particular party's "side", but was just presenting us with the facts as he saw them. The book was quite eye-opening and I feel that I've learnt a lot and begun to understand more about the Russia of the last Tsar.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the Romanovs and the last days of Imperial Russia. It is to be noted though that the book is the electronic version of Mr Massie's 1967 book of the same title. As such it doesn't cover the later discovery of the bodies of the family, and the subsequent tests to prove exactly whose those bodies were. Also, please note that the main text of the book finishes at around 77% of the way through. The rest of the book is largely taken up with the extensive notes and bibliography necessary for such a well researched work.
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on 19 December 2013
I love historical stories - especially those by Phillipa Gregory so I thought this was going to be rather heavy going from what I usually go for. I was SO wrong. This was a fabulous read. No fiction "woven" into fact, but pure fact and evidence, put together so compellingly, I could not put this down. I found myself over a few nights waking in the night thinking about what I had read earlier and wanting more and more. Were Nicholas and Alexandra saints or sinners??? Their devotion to each other and ultimately Rasputin made them pay the ultimate price - and Russia as well. Could history judge them as just plain unlucky or that they just happened to be heading up the country at the wrong time in the wrong place? You could even at some points compare Alex to Diana, Princess of Wales for her compassion and caring for the sick and yet in the same breath, Marie Antoinette for her stubbornness and for refusal to listen to her people when things started to go off track. Nicholas's devotion to his wife and children was admirable, but he let devotion get in the way of duty and of course the rest is history. Even if you think you know the story of the Romanov tragedy, this is a clever insight, with diary entries from the royals, eye witness accounts from those who knew them and in the know and put it together and you have one blockbuster. One word of advice, stick with the detailed history pages, sometimes they quite heavy, but you come out the otherside a few pages later and pick up the story again. Great read - cant praise enough.
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