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The Kitchen Boy: A Novel of the Last Tsar Paperback – Deckle Edge, January 27, 2004
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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.
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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Top customer reviews
However the rest of the book was pleasant enough, well-written despite the fact not much happens and we all know how the (historical) story ends.
Having to stop reading in the middle of the book, looking forward to getting back to it, I was sure that while our protagonist did not seem to protest too much about who he was not, there were other things he seemed very anxious indeed to hide. And this sense of anxiety in the 'kitchen boy' - along with only the most honorable, respectful, and insightful characterizations of Nicholas, Alexandra, dear Alexei and the Grand Duchesses I could have hoped for in any fiction - kept me reading with much approval to the end. Besides this, Robert Alexander shows PROFOUND insight into the Russian soul through the words of his tortured narrator. I felt almost as if I had gotten to know the fellow who had hidden those notes, brought those glasses of milk and water and amused young Alexei during those flights of fancy he took in his wheelchair.
This, dear readers, is a big ALMOST. I would like this book to have the success it deserves, and so the secret cannot be given away. 'You understand'....
Five stars well deserved on a phenomenal crossover, for which 'R D Zimmerman' deserves congratulations.