5 Stars Reviews

Review: The Romanovs by Simon Sebag Montefiore

Montefiore charts the ascension and downfall of one of the most intriguing royal families in history, the Romanovs. Ruling Russia for over three centuries from 1613 until their brutal assassinations in 1917, the Romanovs spawned 18 tsars and tsarinas. Their reigns gave rise to multiple myths and legends and more than a few impostor heirs. This tome explores the political and the personal lives of this legendary dynasty.

I’ve been putting this off for literally years because I didn’t think it was going to be an easy read for several reasons. For starters, it’s physically difficult to read. It’s 750 pages, a huge hardback, heavy as hell, just… bulky, so it has been confined to bedtime reading. Secondly, it’s a non-fiction history book on Russia’s imperial family and one of the most successful dynasties in modern history. History is hardly a passion of mine, and I know next to nothing about Russian history, so I initially approached this with intimidated trepidation.

As soon as I started reading, I knew it was going to be fantastic. It’s so well written, it never feels boring or confusing. The footnotes provide excellent little tidbits of information, sometimes a quick bio of a minor ‘character’ that otherwise would go unexplained, and sometimes it’s just to say that the author fell through the stairs of the Lefort palace whilst doing research there. The book is structured like a play; there are three ‘acts’, each with several scenes. At the beginning of each act is a family tree, and each scene begins with a cast list, both of which are very helpful when trying to keep track of this sprawling dynasty. Some of the tsars are talked about in more detail than others, which is understandable given their rules differed in length and the amount of surviving information. Some of the sections detailing military campaigns and wars could be a little dull, purely down to my lack of interest, but many were livened up with stories of the royals personal exploits during these times. This is truly a fantastic history of such an interesting family, and I’m kicking myself for leaving it unread for so long.

Rating: 5 / 5 stars

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