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The House of Special Purpose

4.04 of 5 stars 4.04  ·  rating details  ·  2,593 ratings  ·  376 reviews
From the author of The Absolutist, a propulsive novel of the Russian Revolution and the fate of the Romanovs.

Part love story, part historical epic, part tragedy, The House of Special Purpose illuminates an empire at the end of its reign. Eighty-year-old Georgy Jachmenev is haunted by his past—a past of death, suffering, and scandal that will stay with him until the end of
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Paperback, 469 pages
Published April 2nd 2013 by Other Press (first published January 1st 2009)
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Historical Fiction: Russia
47th out of 159 books — 237 voters
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Standalone Fiction Books
7th out of 104 books — 9 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Megan
Dec 10, 2012 Megan rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Kristine
Shelves: russia, favorites, fiction
This might be the most perfect book I have ever read.

I picked it up at a library book sale because I couldn't walk out without buying something, and I recognized the title referring to Ipatiev House from my long-term obsession with the Romanovs and Imperial Russia. Within the first half dozen pages, I found out the main character is a librarian at the British Library; I thought, wow, this was a better find than I was expecting--I just got my library science degree, and special collections like t
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Carol
In this historical work of fiction, eighty-two year old Georgy Daniilvech Jachmenev narrates a shocking and eventful part of his younger life while serving as bodyguard to the son of the last Tsar of Russia. After a tragic and guilt-ridden beginning for Georgy, he finds true love and encounters evil, but ultimately uncovers the secret within The House of Special Purpose.

This wonderful story is told with an alternating timeline writing style that is fast-paced and comes together nicely in the end

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Mariana Santos
It took me a weekend to read this book . It's an easy reading , quite touching and fairly entertaining, will probably keep you hooked . People who like pretty love stories will probably adopt it as a favorite.However , the reason which made me read this was the reason why I didn't like it better.

Well,I'm obsessed with the Romanovs , have always been .When I heard that this book was related to their story I just couldn't pass by it. I wrote a history essay about their finals days when I was grad
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Nicki
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Julia
I've always been fascinated by the Russian Revolution, although I know that it wasn't romantic or beautiful in real life. Still, I love reading books about Russian princesses and balls in sparkling halls. John Boyne did a great job in creating his story about the last Tsar and his family, especially by choosing to use the voice of someone who had - at first - nothing in commom with the royal family. I thought that the love story between Anastasia and the main character was really well elaborated ...more
Toni Osborne
I love how John Boyne spins historical events and makes his stories unexpectedly compelling reads. “The House of Special Purpose” is a wonderful mix of trodden grounds of the fall of the Romanov Dynasty with a fictional and well thought narrative that goes back and forth in time in and snippets of important moments in the life of Georgy and Zoya Jackmenev, two of the survivors. This fiction brings to life the lovely myth that has sustained the romantics at heart for many years, the speculation t ...more
Liviu
An unexpectedly compelling read that mixes well trodden ground (last days of the Tsar's rule, Rasputin, the murder of the Tsar and his family) with a well thought narrative structure that presents snippets from the future life of two survivors of the times.

Narrated by Georgy Jachmenev, son of a muzhik from an imperial estate who distinguishes himself by saving the life of an Imperial Duke and gets appointed as bodyguard to the Tsar and his family, in particular to the young, sick and fragile Tsa
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Margarida
Uau! Um dos melhores livros que li nos últimos tempos! Foi o primeiro livro de John Boyne que li e adorei a forma como escreve. Vi o filme baseado no seu livro “O rapaz do pijama às riscas”, que adorei e… um dia destes vou de certeza ler o livro. Adorei a escrita de John Boyne.
Acho que o autor fez um óptimo trabalho de investigação sobre a Rússia Imperial e a Rússia a caminho de uma revolução e enquadrou na perfeição personagens reais com personagens de ficção. Embora se trate de uma nova (mais
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Banafsheh Serov
The House of Special Purpose
John Boyle

Georgy Daniilavich is a Russian peasant whose life takes a dramatic turn when he saves the life of Grand Duke Nicholas Nicholavich, the uncle of Tsar Nicholas II. Moved to the Winter Palace in Petrograd, Georgy finds himself at the centre of the Royal life at a time of great turmoil in Russian history.
Going back and forth between the Russian Court and Georgy’s later life in London - where he lives in exile with his wife Zoya – the story follows the events th
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Pam
With book club books, I usually wait until after the discussion before I rate them. However, this one I'm going out on a limb and rating early. Boyne of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas fame has dazzled us again with his lovely and I mean lovely writing. He creates sympathetic and engaging characters. I loved Georgy and found myself sympathetic to him from the first page. However, I had a hard time reconciling this courtly, intelligent, bookish elderly gentleman with the Muzhik of his early childh ...more
Lisa B.
My Thoughts

I really enjoyed this book. I liked the way the author decided to tell his tale. The story is told by Georgy and when we first meet him, he is in his early eighties. In the next chapter, Georgy is sixteen and an unpredictable event occurs that changes his life forever. In alternating chapters, older Georgy’s story moves back in time while younger Georgy’s story moves forward. We eventually get to the point where the two story lines meet and all secrets are revealed.

I couldn’t wait to
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Kristine
This may be one of the best constructed books I've had the fortune of reading. As someone who usually shies away from historical fiction due to its burdensome focus on the setting, I must say Boyne was a very pleasant recommendation.

The story opens with 80-year-old Georgy facing the harsh reality that his beloved Zoya is succumbing to cancer. His thoughts then turn to the past, when he was a mere teenager who went from being a poor farmer to bodyguard to the Tsarevich Alexei Romanov. In a struct
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Kara

An AMAZING example of fractured story line. We start in 1981, showing the reader that happily-ever-afters in this day and age is going to end with, best case scenario, a one way ticket to the oncology ward and condescending grandchildren.

The story jumps back and forth from 1981 to 1915 to 1920 to 1941 to 1935 and back again, covering the life of a couple so devoted to each other and intertwined they are known as GregoryandZoya rather than Gregory and Zoya. Finding out the middle, beginning and e
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Annie
Anything involving Nicholas and Alexandra always does it for me. This was really excellent, with an modern story working backwards and a conventional historical story working towards the time of the revolution. It's got it all - a terrifying Rasputin, the luxury of the royal palaces, superb portrayal of a life of privilege, and an all-consuming love story. The last line - "So this is what it means to be alone" - had me sobbing my heart out. Superb writing...

Rickhow
I do not know why so many write reviews which tell you all about the story when all you need to do is look up what it is about via goodreads.com. So I'll get right to the point. This is definitely one of my favorite authors and this has now become one of my favorite books. It was unique, if a bit far fetched, but told wonderfully and you just had to keep reading to get through it to see what happens next. I would say amazing. Get it. Read it. Love it.
Mwrogers
I really wanted to love this book. I was humming "Once Upon a December" throughout the first few chapters. But then things started bothering me...like how does an ignorant peasant speak with such perfect grammar and how does he just happen to be where all the action is all the time? The jumping back and forth through different time periods, along with some of the random characters, was just distracting. I think this book deserved a better editor.
Marcia
I absoulutly loved this book. I'm sure part of its appeal to me is that I have always been fascinated by all things Romanov. The mystery that surrounds what happened to Anastasia was a great back drop to this book. I would love to believe that this is how her story ended. I thought the author's use of historical events was brilliant. A wonderfully entertaining book that I hated to see end.
Jessica Dodds
Absolutely fantastic read. Loved the way Boyne weaves the two story lines together at the end. I loved every moment of this book - the adventure, mystery and romance. A must read if you have a keen interest in The last Tsar of Russia like I do.
Elsje
In The house of special purpose heeft John Boyne het verhaal van Anastacia, de dochter van de laatste Russische Tsaar, van wie lange tijd het gerucht rond ging dat zij de moord op haar familie in 1917 overleefd zou hebben, als uitgangspunt genomen. Wat zou er van haar gekomen kunnen zijn als zij deze slachting inderdaad overleefd zou hebben?
Als vehikel gebruikt hij daarvoor de boerenjongen Georgy, die door min of meer (on)gelukkig toeval als gezelschapsjongen annex lijfwacht voor het ziekelijke
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Ana
“O Palácio de Inverno” é um romance histórico, escrito por John Boyne, e que nos relata o final da família Romanov.

Gosto muito de ler romances históricos e ainda mais quando estes nos relatam acontecimentos de épocas históricas que adoro. No caso deste livro, não é que adore o período da primeira guerra mundial, mas gosto muito da história dos últimos Romanov. Desde pequena, que o filme “Anastacia” da Disney despertou em mim esta curiosidade em relação aos Romanov. Achei a história muito interes
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Michele
Most everyone knows how I feel about John Boyne. If I were inclined to stalk an author in order to read even his grocery list, Boyne would probably be that author.

So it pains me to report how absolutely meh I felt after reading The House of Special Purpose. Frankly, it was the subject matter: he takes us to revolutionary Russia, a veritable feast of possibilities, and gives us the old, stale Anastasia thing again? I had a hard time accepting this. In fact, I kept hoping - right up until the ver
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Maryana
I am a fan of John Boyne's books for younger readers and this was the first adult book of his that I have read. I hate to say this, but it was a disappointment. With such a talented author and such an interesting history to work from, I was expecting more.The romance was less real and more descriptive, sacrificing depth for emotion and passion. The 'revelation' at the end of the book was predictable. Also, and possibly worst of all, there seemed to be no purpose to the journey of the characters. ...more
Nancy McKibben
Aug 13, 2013 Nancy McKibben rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: readers who are Russophiles; readers who like the Romanovs
The House of Special Purpose
By John Boyne

I liked this book, although not as much as the reviewers who blurbed it. I had a little trouble swallowing the premise of the protagonist as a peasant turned bodyguard to the Tsarevich Alexei, and the main plot that devolved from it (which I don’t want to give away, although I guessed it pretty early on.) But after I forced myself to accept the two huge coincidences upon which the plot hangs, the book became the proverbial good read.

We know from the begin
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Victoria
Irish author, John Boyne, sets this tale largely in Russia. Loosely covering nearly eighty years of history in this fictionalized account of Georgy’s life, this is the meaty sort of historical fiction that though it opens a bit slowly, quickly becomes quite engrossing. The book focuses on the Romanov family - through their newest young bodyguard’s eyes (Georgy). Nearly all of his extraordinary life is captured between these covers - from the ups and downs of his long marriage, to his childhood, ...more
Jule Madita
"Der Junge im gestreiften Pyjama" hat mir sehr gut gefallen, daher meine Entscheidung auch dieses Buch zu lesen.

In "Das Haus zur besonderen Verwendung" laufen zwei Zeitstränge aufeinander zu:

- Ein alter Mann sitzt am Sterbebett seiner Krebskranken Frau und erinnert sich an das gemeinsame Leben - Kapitel für Kapitel geht es weiter zurück in die Vergangenheit und durch halb Europa.
- Ein 16jähriger Bauernjunge rettet dem Vetter des russischen Zaren das Leben und wird daraufhin als Leibwächter für d
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lynn
On further exploration of the author John Boyne, he remains my new favorite author of historical fiction! The House of Special Purpose deals with the relationship between a young man whose status changes from peasant to bodyguard of the Tsarevich in a fateful act. Brought to St Petersburg, he falls in love with the Tsar's daughter Anastasia. The tale is told going forward from youth, and backward from old age, to the final imaginings of how /why Anastasia may have escaped her family's fate.
Ambrosia Jefferson
First posted on Fire & Ice

I really wanted this book to blow me out of the water, alas it did not. That said I did enjoy it over all. I think it was just the tone of the main character who tells the story that kept me from being blown away. I could not warm up to him much at all. That said the story itself the words that he told were well done. I like how the imagery is painted it is not done in a rosy colored bunch of colors. You get the dark and the grime of the time along with the moments
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Steph
To my surprise I absolutely loved this novel. I have very little knowledge of Russian History and my introduction to Russian Historical fiction came from Susanna Kearley's Firebird which I enjoyed as well. When The House of Special Purpose came across my radar and I decided to give it a try. I am grateful it did. The story focuses on the Romanovs' which I knew little about besides the names Anastasia and Rasputin. I found while reading this novel I was also pulling up Encyclopedia articles to ch ...more
Cook Memorial Public Library
Recommended by Ellen J., who writes, This past winter as the Olympics were being held in Sochi, I revisited Russia in my reading. John Boyne’s novel, The House of Special Purpose, caught my attention because it featured the czar’s Winter Palace, now the world class art museum known as The Hermitage which we visited in 1989. In The House of Special Purpose, the reader experiences the contrast between the poverty-stricken lives of the Russian peasants and their powerful czars through the eyes of t ...more
Vicky
John Boyne succeeded in bringing together historical events and the fates of fictional characters so well that I didn't even mind the fact that sadly history had other plans. I also adored the way the story was told, beginning with a chapter set in the early 20th century, moving on to a chapter set at the end of the century, and slowly knitting them closer together until they became identical. There were so many historical events mentioned in this novel and Geory's life story touched my heart.
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Romanovs: May Group Read Announced 23 38 Jan 11, 2014 10:57AM  
Romanovs: Spring Group Read 8 13 Apr 25, 2013 04:23PM  
  • The Tsarina's Daughter
  • The Diary of Olga Romanov: Royal Witness to the Russian Revolution
  • Sashenka
  • The True Memoirs of Little K
  • The Romanov Bride
  • Anna (The Kirov Saga, #1)
  • The Siege
  • The Last Empress: The Life and Times of Alexandra Feodorovna, Tsarina of Russia
  • Generations of Winter
  • The Mirrored World
  • The Secret Daughter of the Tsar
  • Enchantments
  • The Romanov Conspiracy
  • From Splendor to Revolution: The Romanov Women, 1847--1928
  • Tsar: The Lost World of Nicholas and Alexandra
  • The Red Scarf
  • Alix and Nicky: The Passion of the Last Tsar and Tsarina
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John Boyne (born 30 April 1971 in Dublin) is an Irish novelist.

He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and studied Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, where he was awarded the Curtis Brown prize. But it was during his time at Trinity that he began to get published. To pay his way at that stage of his career, he worked at Waterstone's, typing up his drafts by night.

John Boyne is
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More about John Boyne...
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas The Absolutist This House is Haunted The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket Stay Where You Are And Then Leave

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“It occurs to me that even though Zoya and I are both still alive, my life is already over. She will be taken from me soon and there will be no reason for me to continue without her. We are one person, you see. We are GeorgyandZoya.” 9 likes
“It's enough to make me laugh. I close the door behind me and sit down again, considering this, and truly, I find it so funny that I laugh until I cry.

And when the tears come I think aah...

So this is what it means to be alone.”
6 likes
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