"Ingenious...Keeps readers guessing through the final pages." —USA Today
"A gripping and entirely believable description of the last days of the Romanovs...Thoroughly enjoyable, educational, and just a good old-fashioned page-turner." —Margaret George, author of Mary, Called Magdalene
"This is a dream of a book... [Robert Alexander's] tough, stylish prose is the perfect medium for this fast-becoming myth of evil and innocence, of frailty and courage, of betrayal and redemption." —Judith Guest
"Through the power of the author's imagination, we see not only the tragedy of the Emperor, but that of a human being, man, and father." —Ivan Artsyshevsky, The Romanov Family Association
In the turbulent early days of revolutionary Russia, Bolshevik agents herded
the deposed Tsar Nicholai II, his family and aides into the basement of a
Siberian house and executed them all in a blaze of gunfire. Details of what
happened that fateful night have taken decades to emerge, reaching a
terrible climax with the 1991 excavation of a mass grave believed to be the
one in which some of the members of the Romanov family were buried.
Writer Robert Alexander, a fluent Russian speaker who studied in Leningrad,
became fascinated with an obscure reference in the Empress Alexandra's
personal journal shortly before her death, noting that their kitchen boy had
been sent away. This brief reference from a forgotten 1918 diary took root
in Alexander's imagination and, after much research, blossomed as his new
novel The Kitchen Boy. This intriguing work of speculative historical
fiction re-creates the last days of the tsar through the eyes of the young
Leonka, who recalls how he secretly returned to the Siberian house that
served as the Romanovs' prison and witnessed their execution.
The novel successfully maintains an intense atmo-sphere of peril and
suspense despite the reader's foreknowledge of the Romanovs' fate. The
calamity is heightened by the fierce, almost primal protectiveness the
parents showed toward their children—who nevertheless would die with
them—invoking compassion for the royal family as people rather than dusty
Despite the sympathetic portrayal of the tsar and his family, Alexander
doesn't ignore the judgment of history. As Leonka notes, however
well-intentioned Nicholai and his empress may have been, their rule over
Russia was a legacy of war, revolution, corruption and oppression. But the
thuggish Bolshevik revolutionaries fare no better under the novel's
The Kitchen Boy is a fascinating and suspenseful glimpse of a tempestuous
but shadowy period in Russian history. It's also a moving portrait of a
family that, despite their legendary role in world events, proved in the end
to be as mortal as the rest of us.
Gregory Harris is a writer, editor and technology consultant in
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. . (Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Drawing on 30 years of research and archival source documents, first novelist Alexander transforms a now-familiar and bloody era of history-the Bolshevik Revolution and the Romanov massacre-into a suspenseful and richly layered account of a family in deadly peril. The story is told from the viewpoint of a surviving witness, the kitchen boy who worked in the house where the Romanovs were imprisoned in 1918. Now an ailing grandfather, Misha records his experiences on tape so that his American granddaughter will know his real history. Tsar Nicholas and his wife, Alexandra, are portrayed as loving but achingly flawed people whose poor judgments lead inexorably to the family's destruction. The Bolsheviks, on the other hand, come off as comic book villains. Because the fate of two Romanov children, Alexei and Marie, is still not known (their bodies were missing from the family's gravesite when it was exhumed in 1991), Alexander's version of what might have befallen them packs a wallop that is surprising but consistent with his story. Sure to entrance readers in most public libraries, this is recommended for most historical fiction collections.-Barbara Conaty, Library of Congress Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Once again, the end of the Romanovs by execution, this time through the memories of an old man who claims he was there. In 1998, in a Chicago suburb, a wealthy aging Russian émigré bequeaths to his granddaughter a tape he’s made so that she will understand his role in the death of the Tsar and his family. According to the tape, he was a 14-year-old kitchen boy called Leonka in the Siberian house where the Romanovs were imprisoned. The narrator waxes on about the Tsar and Tsarina’s qualities as human beings—their courage, kindness, family devotion—while he begrudgingly acknowledges their weakness as rulers: Alexandra’s religious fanaticism and Nikolai’s unwillingness to accept the concept of a constitutional monarchy. Leonka rails against the Bolsheviks, declaring them swinish and vicious, and recounts the household’s dull daily routine of prayers, meals, and sewing (pounds of jewels inside the girls’ corsets). Because as kitchen boy he regularly leaves the house and is too lowly to draw suspicion, Leonka becomes a courier between the Tsar and unknown allies outside the walls. The days drag on until eventually, through Leonka’s carelessness, a letter is intercepted and plans for Nikolai’s execution are set in motion. Leonka watches through a window as the Romanovs are murdered and later recovers two bodies that fall from the wagon carrying them away. One is the heir, shot dead. The other is his wounded sister, Grand Duchess Maria. Leonka’s sense of guilt leads him, at great risk, to try to save Maria’s life. The tape over, the old man dies, and his granddaughter discovers that his story, though true in spirit, misleads in its most central details. Meantime, historical letters and otherfactual tidbits have been sprinkled throughout as if to prove authenticity, though they add little. More accurate than Ingrid Bergman waltzing with Yul Brenner, but also much duller.