BOOKS FOR CHILDREN: “The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion and the Fall of Imperial Russia
If you've ever wondered about the true story of Anastasia (the non-animated version), read "The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion and the Fall of Imperial Russia."
Author Candace Fleming immediately presents the Romanov family's extreme wealth. In 1903, the palace in St. Petersburg stretched for three miles along the Neva River. The Russian empire covered one-sixth of the Earth's land surface.
The book also tells the story of the individuals: Tsar Nicholas II and his devoutly religious wife, Alexandra; the four daughters (Olga, Tatiana, Marie and Anastasia); and the long-awaited son, Alexei (who suffered from hemophilia).
Fleming also presents contrasts. Using excerpts from letters and diaries, she shows the dire poverty of the Russian peasants and working class. Using these seeds, she writes about the workers' strikes in 1905, the Bolshevik revolution and Lenin's rise to power in November 1917.
At a certain point, readers will sense that there's no hope for a happy ending, not for the people of Russia or for the family Romanov. Events only get worse when the family is captured and placed under house arrest, far away in the Ural Mountains.
Although Fleming includes many details about the revolution and the impact of the war, Fleming keeps the Romanov family central. For example, she includes a touching poem from Olga to her mother during her grief, descriptions of the daughters' interactions and the family's odd loyalty to the controversial "holy man" Rasputin.
The backbone of this readable book is Fleming's extensive primary source research, including Nicholas and Alexandra's letters, statements from guards, priests and cleaning women and accounts of the final murders of the Romanovs. Fleming also includes more than 70 photographs, helping us to wonder more about the family's life during these violent years.
I feel as if I'm only touching the tip of this incredible book. Fleming's work is a non-fiction treasure for young readers and adults alike.
"The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia." By Candace Fleming. Schwartz and Wade, 2014. 304 pp.