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An interesting re-consideration of Nicholas and Alexandra
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.