- Paperback: 368 pages
- Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; First Edition edition (July 8, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0812979052
- ISBN-13: 978-0812979053
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 77 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #129,526 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Secret Lives of the Tsars: Three Centuries of Autocracy, Debauchery, Betrayal, Murder, and Madness from Romanov Russia Paperback – July 8, 2014
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"Farquhar brings all the delightful faults and quirks of the famous Russian dynasts to the forefront while providing an excellent condensed version of Russian history." --Publishers Weekly
"An accessible, exciting narrative....Highly recommended interested in Russian history and those who enjoy the seamier side of past lives " --Library Journal (starred review)
"Imperial Russia was never so entertaining as in the hands of royalty expert and breezy storyteller Farquhar." --The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer
"Readers of this book may get a sense of why Russians are so tolerant of tyrants like Stalin and Putin. Given their history, it probably seems normal." --The Washington Post
"Michael Farquhar finds more than a few instances of misbehavior and villainy.... But there's more here than just the sordid." --Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Praise for Secret Lives of the Tsars
“An accessible, exciting narrative . . . Highly recommended for generalists interested in Russian history and those who enjoy the seamier side of past lives.”—Library Journal (starred review)
“An excellent condensed version of Russian history . . . a fine tale of history and scandal . . . sure to please general readers and monarchy buffs alike.”—Publishers Weekly
“Tales from the nasty lives of global royalty . . . an easy-reading, lightweight history lesson.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Readers of this book may get a sense of why Russians are so tolerant of tyrants like Stalin and Putin. Given their history, it probably seems normal.”—The Washington Post
Praise for Michael Farquhar
“Michael Farquhar doesn’t write about history the way, say, Doris Kearns Goodwin does. He writes about history the way Doris Kearns Goodwin’s smart-ass, reprobate kid brother might. I, for one, prefer it.”—Gene Weingarten, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and Washington Post columnist
About the Author
Michael Farquhar, a former writer and editor at The Washington Post, is the bestselling author of the critically praised Behind the Palace Doors, as well as the national bestsellers A Treasury of Royal Scandals, A Treasury of Great American Scandals, A Treasury of Deception, and A Treasury of Foolishly Forgotten Americans. His work has been featured in a number of national publications, and he has appeared as a commentator on such programs as History’s top-rated Russia: Land of the Tsars and The French Revolution.
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Top customer reviews
Other reviewers noted that this books crams a great deal of history into a relatively short book, but that is only to be expected when covering 300 years of Romanov rule into a 343 page turner. I would recommend that, if you do choose to read this book, take it in smaller bits...read about a Tsar and then perhaps do a little further research into that ruler online. For example, if you read about Peter the Great, then you'll note a story about Mary Hamilton. People like her certainly bring color into history, so it might be fun to take a break from the book just to read her individual story.
I loved delving further into Russian History, from a royal perspective. I've read other books about the history of Moscow, about Ivan the Terrible, etc., and this really pointed me in a direction to further my reading.
I would really like to commend Farquhar, the author, for taking the time to put this book together. I've already purchased another book of his and am putting his books on my Amazon Wishlist. I highly recommend this book for people who love "palace intrigue" and a not so reverent look at history's leaders.
The Romanov Dynasty began in 1613 with the selection of 16-year old Tsar Michael I to the throne. Farquhar tries to dedicate a chapter to each ruler, spending the most time with the big three: Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, and Nicholas II. The hapless Nicholas II actually rates three chapters. Yes, this was a gruesome bunch, and many were known for their brutality, their bloodlust, their dalliances, their betrayals, and their eccentricities. Tsars killed sons, and sons supported the murder of their ruling fathers. Two rulers were actually spouses of tsars, Catherine I and Catherine II. Petty jealousies were present in almost every court. Empress Elizabeth never allowed the women who came to her affairs to wear the same gown twice. “To ensure this, gowns were marked or tagged during a ball to ensure they would not be seen again.” When Peter the Great found out that his wife’s secretary might also be her lover, he had the man charged with corruption, executed, and “he ordered his head preserved in a jar and sent to Catherine [his wife]—apparently as some kind of perverse keepsake.” One of the saddest of stories is that fate of the last tsar, Nicholas II, and his family. The Romanov Dynasty came to an end in 1917 when Nicholas was forced to abdicate, a situation that was brought about by his inability to lead, his strong-willed but misguided wife, his son’s hemophilia, Rasputin, and World War I. This is definitely a case of the truth being more bizarre than fiction.
I found it most interesting reading about the more little-known tsars, such as Alexander I and Nicholas I. Otherwise, most of the book is a rehash of other, more extensive works. Farquhar liberally quotes Robert K. Massie, who wrote Peter the Great, Nicholas and Alexandra, and The Romanovs: The Final Chapter. If you’ve already read these books, which I have, you will already know most of this information. So my recommendation is to skip this book if know quite a bit about Romanov history. Otherwise, this might be a good place to start.