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Yesterday during the snowstorm I finally finished reading The Romanovs, and if you're at all interested in Russian history I highly recommend it. We mostly hear about a few specific Romanovs - Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, then on to the twentieth century and the whole mythologized Rasputin story - but Montefiore does a masterful job of taking us through the whole dynasty, from the early seventeenth century up through the end in 1918. I found some of the earlier stuff to be particularly interesting, probably because I knew less about it going in. (Someone please write a well-researched historical novel about the early Romanov brideshows!) Montefiore also does better than I expected at helping the reader keep everyone straight, which is impressive since everyone has the same six names and also six different nicknames.
The tsars are often pretty romanticized, especially Nicholas and Alexandra and their kids at the end, and I thought Montefiore did a much better job than other authors I've read (looking at you, Robert Massie) at explaining how the Romanovs weren't just good people caught up in a terrible fate out of their control - they in fact were REALLY BAD AT THEIR JOBS and made a variety of awful decisions that led directly to their downfall.
This book can be a little slow going at times - it took me over a month to read it, which is pretty rare for me - but it's worth it and some of the stories it contains are WILD. (I do not know why many more people did not die from alcohol poisoning.) It also made me want to read more Russian literature, so I think I'll be tackling War and Peace soon...
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