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The Kitchen Boy: A Novel of the Last Tsar Paperback


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 229 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (January 27, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0142003816
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142003817
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.1 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (133 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #44,613 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The Romanovs are arguably second only to Jack the Ripper as objects of literary speculation. The story of their last days, their possible escape and the final resting place of the $500 million in jewels hidden in their clothing provides periodic grist for fiction writers. Alexander's first novel is based on "decades of painstaking research" and access to previously sealed Russian archives. He has produced a detailed version of the Romanovs' captivity, but the book fails to deliver much drama, despite the inherent mystery of the events. Narrated by 94-year-old Mikhail Semyanov, a Russian immigrant now living outside Chicago, the novel travels back to the bloody days of the Russian revolution, when the entire royal family is imprisoned in Siberia, in a building known as the House of Special Purpose. There, the seven Romanovs-Tsar Nikolai, his wife Aleksandra, their hemophiliac son, Aleksei, and their four daughters-are confined with a small staff of attendants, including Leonka, the kitchen boy of the title, who may or may not be narrator Mikhail. The captivity is seen from Leonka's point of view, and his focus on the gravely ill Aleksei prevents the development of a fully nuanced portrait of the rest of the family. Instead, they're depicted as passive victims of a tyranny even worse than the czarist state. Though impressively detailed, the novel is often as static as a museum exhibit, with notes and documents held up for display. Most of the suspense is held for the end, a denouement that reveals Mikhail's identity and Alexander's imaginative theory about the final dispensation of the Romanov jewels.: Russophiles may want to access Alexander's bibliography, plus copies of the documents that he studied and historical photos, on his Web site: www.thekitchenboy.com.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

The final days of the last Russian tsar, Nicholas II, and his family are still a fascinating mystery. There is no one left to bear witness to what happened at the execution. Or is there? Alexander takes a very real, but forgotten and overlooked, potential witness, a young kitchen boy, and creates an amazing fictional account of what may have transpired. Leonka was working as a kitchen boy to the Romanov family when the Bolsheviks captured them, exiled them to Siberia, and imprisoned them in their house. Because of his lowly position in the household, Leonka was able to see and hear secret things. And he does keep them secret until decades later, knowing he is ready to die, he reveals all he knows about the imperial family and their horrific death. Alexander includes as much historically accurate information into his fiction as possible, and he includes actual letters and notes attributed to the Romanovs, which add a touch of authenticity. He also renders the plot beautifully with one final jaw-dropping and satisfying twist. Carolyn Kubisz
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

It was a good historical fiction read!
Therese M. Hart
Basically the author is telling the story rather than showing it, making the narration awkward and clumsy.
ash
The book ends with some unexpected twists that make for a very satisfying conclusion.
John D. Cofield

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Frank J. Konopka TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 11, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This extremely well written novel reads like a true life adventure story. It's a tale of the murder of the Russian imperial family in 1918 in their place of exile in Siberia, told by one of the people who was present at the time. The plot ranges from revolutionary times up to the present day, and involves a deep, dark mystery: why were two of the bodies never discovered? The reader is quickly drawn into the story, and the writing is such that, even though you know the terrible fate which awaits the last Tsar and his family, you keep hoping the ending will be different. There are a few twists at the end, which brings the tale to a bittersweet conclusion. Highly entertaining and sobering reading, and I recommend it very much!
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By MSlife on February 12, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I found this book while browsing the net and couldn't wait for the day it arrived in my mailbox. I had to discontinue the novel I was working on, as I couldn't wait a moment longer to start this book. It was everything plus more that I hoped it would be. It puts you inside the book and is like a steam engine going until the explosion of an ending. The amazon[.com] review does no justice to this book. It is by far the best book I have read in years. Even days after I read it, I am still thinking of all the characters as if they are long lost family members. It transported me into Russia 1918 during the bolshevik revolution and hasn't let me out since!
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A. Browning on July 25, 2005
Format: Paperback
Even though this is a fiction book, it is very detailed and at times I actually believed it could have happened. This is the story of the Romanov imprisonment in Siberia after the fall of their reign. It is told from the point of view of the Kitchen boy who saw it all. The ending has a unexpected twist. This book is meticuoulsly researched and detailed and is a great historical novel! If you are interested in the Romanovs or just love historical novels, this is for you!
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Kaliopi Pappas on June 1, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This novel takes real history and blends it almost seamlessly with creative fiction, treating the family with fairness and respect in the process. Some of the non-historical premises are not terribly believable if you know the real facts involved, and the story sometimes sinks into overdrama, but that doesn't detract from the fun. Reality aside, the story works.
If you consider yourself in love with Nicholas II's family, you'll probably very much enjoy it. If you like historical fantasy, you may enjoy it. If you are wedded to reality at all costs, you will probably be bothered.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Charles Ashbacher HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 13, 2005
Format: Paperback
The best historical fiction is based on facts and the fictional parts are plausible. This book has all of that and is very well written. It is based on the last days of the last Tsar of all the Russians. After hundreds of years of being in absolute power, the last Romanov ruler had been deposed and is being held under house arrest by the Bolsheviks. Leonka, the kitchen boy in the house, who waits on the royal family, is supposedly telling the story and they become mutual friends in their last days. He describes their mannerisms, speech and approach to life in a way that is consistent with all of the historical record surrounding these tragic figures.

The Red revolution is under siege, and the city where the Romanovs are being held is about to fall to the White counterrevolutionaries. Therefore, the Reds have decided to kill the royal family and completely destroy their bodies. That way nothing will be left that could be used in the construction of a shrine to their memory. When the time comes for the execution, Leonka is sent away, but he knows what is happening and he follows the truck carrying their bodies. One of the Tsar's daughters falls off the truck and is still alive. He pulls her to safety and gives her aid.

However, throughout the tale, there is always an undercurrent of falsehood, and you are constantly wondering what really happened. In the end, all is revealed and it was not what I thought it was. Alexander has crafted a superb tale with an unexpected ending. I strongly recommend this book as it presents Tsar Nicholas and his family as they were and the Red revolution as it was and is captivatingly written.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Deborah Kaplan on March 8, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I loved this book. It combines the best of the historical novel, non-fiction and the suspense story - I couldn't put it down. Alexander clearly has a masterful grasp of Russian history, and he is able to make the reader care about the destiny of the last Tsar and his family, without in any way apologizing for the grave mistakes they made. This is one of those books that broadens your horizons and that you think about for a long time after finishing it.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Elusive Adhesive on March 7, 2006
Format: Paperback
A dedicated fan of the Romanovs may find this book worth reading for its faithful recreation of the family's last days. As a novel, however, the book is seriously flawed. The story-within-a-story format is clumsily handled - the narrator goes off on long tirades about things that don't advance the plot at all, and spouts some tiresome (and cliched) opinions about the downfall of the Romanovs. Everything that happens after the murder of the family is completely unbelievable. It's like the author was trying to show off how torturous a plot he was able to dream up, without understanding that plots have to be character-driven. The character of Kate, on whose behalf the story is being told, is a thin and unconvincing one. This would have been a much better book if it had been done as a simple, fictionalized account of the Romanov murders without trying to turn it into a suspense novel. I give it 2 stars for atmosphere.
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