The Romanovs- Simon Sebag Montefiore- A Review

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The author clearly is a scholar and spent a massive amount of time researching this book. It definitely shows in the prose that he’s made a complete study of the Romanov tsars and their world. Where I had issues was the densely written text that made the book tedious to read as well as the seemingly endless details about various battles and generals. The over-descriptive passages regarding clothing and various peripheral members of society also bogged down the text. I learned some things about the tsars that I didn’t know—especially some of the brutality that seems to have been glossed over in other texts that this author had no qualms about going into great detail over. Some of the descriptions in early reigns were particularly disturbing although they did paint a picture of a society that makes one wonder about the people of that particular era. Brutal death and bloody streets seemed to be the norm and it was viscerally brought home that those were terrible days to live in.

I also learned more about Alexandra and her mental state that greatly contributed to the downfall of the house of Romanov. Other books about the end of the dynasty focus more on Rasputin, but this book, with the excerpts of Alix’s letters to Nicky, showed she was unstable and he was deluded into going along with her thinking. He was, like most all of the tsars, anti Semitic and took joy in their mistreatment so it’s a bit hard to feel sorry for him, but the brutal murders and unrelenting behavior of the assassins was brought home particularly harshly in the descriptions in this book.

I’m giving it 3 stars due to the tedium of the prose and the unnecessary detail about the wars (that didn’t add much to the topic of the dynasty). The author clearly knew his topic but didn’t seem to know how to condense the text to the essential elements. I won’t try to slog through this one again, but I did learn some new information I hadn’t read before so I’m glad I took the time to read it.

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