The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion & the Fall of Imperial Russia

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
The Family Romanov:  Murder, Rebellion & the Fall of Imperial Russia Book Poster Image
Vivid, sometimes violent tale of Russia's last royal family.

Parents say

age 7+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 2 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Thorough and extensively researched history details daily lives of peasants, townspeople, and the imperial family; political and social climate; and important historical figures such as Lenin, before and during the Russian Revolution. Causes of the revolution are clearly explained. There are lots of Russian vocabulary words. Front matter has a map of the empire with sites important to the imperial family noted, explains Russian naming conventions and Julian/Gregorian dating systems. End matter has a broad index, list of online sources for further information, and explains primary sources.

Positive Messages

This tragic recounting of a tragic chapter in Russian history has little in terms of positive messages -- other than family loyalty and the urge of downtrodden peasants to be free -- but presents an opportunity to think about the many ways things might have been different for everyone.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Many historical figures model the full range of human behavior. The imperial family was very close-knit, and Nicholas and Alexandra model tremendous devotion to their children, especially the sickly Alexei. Politically, they were utterly inept from lack of training and education, which the tsar coped with by hiding from or ignoring problems instead of facing them head on. Other key figures wanted wealth or power and caused harm in attempting to get them. Even those who committed the most heinous acts were driven by tremendous anger and grief that converted into a hatred the reader can understand.

Violence

Many violent, horrifying events such as massacres, executions, and pogroms are related in a straightforward manner with no gore, but blood's mentioned a few times. The last set of illustrations includes three gruesome photos of dead bodies, including a small close-up of an important figure after his body had been in a river for three days.

Sex

Prostitutes mentioned a couple of times. Teens and young adults engage in flirtatious behavior.

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Nicholas was a chain smoker and is frequently mentioned smoking. Occasional mention of others smoking. A harsh life with a violent, alcoholic father is briefly described. Wine, cognac, and champagne mentioned occasionally at gala events; the poor mentioned once as drinking cheap vodka and watered-down beer to escape their problems. Violent mobs and soldiers mentioned a couple of times as drunk or "vodka-swilling."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Family Romanov, by Candace Fleming, is a thorough and detailed history of Russia's last imperial family from the author of The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary. This book, with its more straightforward narration, is targeted at a slightly older audience. There's a lot of violence in sometimes-detailed descriptions of massacres, executions, and protests, but there's no gore, and blood's mentioned only a few times. The Family Romanov gives kids a thorough understanding of a very complex era and provides a lot of food for thought about the causes and effects of important individuals, societal attitudes, and revolution.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 4, 8, and 11 year old Written byProudSovietMatushka9 October 2, 2018

WOW!!!

This is a FANTASTIC book, following the last Russian family, it is very educational, and something that all children need to know more about
Teen, 15 years old Written byZoeMassier May 25, 2018

Loved this as a fun and educational book.

I read this several years ago when high school was just beginning and was later able to do a non-fiction book speech using this book. A very enjoyable read. Tho... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old February 26, 2018

Yeah, No

I absolutely hated this book. The pacing of the storytelling was all over the place, sticking on random subjects for two pages then flying over the next. Such a... Continue reading

What's the story?

Nicholas II became emperor of Russia with little education and no training at all. Unequipped to cope with the pressures of governing, he sought refuge in his devoted family: wife Alexandra, their four daughters, and son and heir to the throne Alexei. At the same time, Russia's vast farm and factory workers, living in abject poverty, reached a breaking point and began demanding change. Eventually forced to abdicate, Nicholas and his family were taken captive by deeply embittered troops who wanted nothing more than to see the tsar dead. The captors decide the entire family, as well as the servants who remained loyal to them, must be killed before they can be freed by the quickly approaching loyalist White Army. Their plan succeeded and brought an end to a dynasty that had ruled Russia for 300 years.

Is it any good?

This is an engaging, often-riveting, detailed look into the lives of the last royal family of Russia as well as the social and political upheaval in the empire at the turn of the 20th century. Using a wealth of primary sources, Candace Fleming paints vivid portraits of the doomed family, and tweens and teens will easily relate to the young Romanovs as they grow up in unique circumstances. The only flaws are a few awkward sentences that should have been caught by an editor, such as "a combined Austrian-Germany force" and "whether the tsar chose to listen was his choice," which are unlikely to bother teens.

The book is no rosy-hued tribute from a fan of royalty. Fleming's scholarship is formidable and her empathy for all concerned evident. She deftly juxtaposes her lively look at the Romanovs with first-hand accounts from peasants and workers that help the reader understand their terrible situation. She handles the violent, tragic deaths the Romanovs and countless other people with an unvarnished but even tone, so the reader is not just appropriately horrified but also feels the impact, while thoroughly understanding cause and effect. Lots of photographs bring key people, places, and events to life and deepen the reader's understanding of the gap between the imperial family and their subjects.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why we're fascinated with the past. What can events that happened a long time ago teach us?

  • Do you think the author gives a balanced look at everyone, from the tsar to the peasants and revolutionaries? Do you think she's more sympathetic to one side or the other?

  • The first illustration shows a breakdown of Russians by class, with nobility and officials at 1.5 percent of the population and peasants and workers at 95 percent. How similar or different is that to our own socio-economic breakdown? Could events like those in Russia ever happen here? Why, or why not?

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