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The House of Special Purpose

4.06  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,420 Ratings  ·  459 Reviews
Russia, 1915: At the age of 16, Georgy Jachmenev steps in front of an assassin's bullet intended for the heart of a senior member of the Russian Imperial Family. He is instantly proclaimed a hero. Before the week is out, his life as the son of a peasant farmer is changed forever when he is escorted to St Petersburg to take up his new position - as bodyguard to Alexei Roman ...more
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published May 7th 2009 (first published 2009)
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Anastasia by Carolyn MeyerThe Kitchen Boy by Robert AlexanderThe Lost Crown by Sarah  MillerThe Tsarina's Daughter by Carolly EricksonThe Romanov Conspiracy by Glenn Meade
Fiction books featuring the Romanov Family
9th out of 34 books — 41 voters
The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa GregoryThe Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa GregoryInnocent Traitor by Alison WeirThe Lady in the Tower by Jean PlaidyNefertiti by Michelle Moran
Royal Fiction
25th out of 176 books — 70 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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B the BookAddict

A story of escape, exile, survival and love which spans nearly eighty years and three continents.

Georgy, the young bodyguard to Prince Alexei Romanov meets the love of his life Zoya at the Royal Palace. But it is a time of growing unrest in Russia and fate steps in to shape their lives in a way they never expected. Once the Bolsheviks have taken control of the Palace, the outcome for the Romanov family was a fait accompli. It is no place for Romanov supporters either and the two young lovers mus
Mar 01, 2015 Megan rated it it was amazing
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
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

Mariana Santos
Aug 27, 2012 Mariana Santos rated it liked it
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
May 21, 2012 Nicki rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 14, 2010 Julia rated it really liked it
Shelves: historic
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
Jul 23, 2014 Liviu rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 18, 2014 Margarida rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Toni Osborne
Nov 25, 2013 Toni Osborne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Lisa B.
Apr 07, 2013 Lisa B. rated it it was amazing
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
Aykut Kısa
Apr 30, 2015 Aykut Kısa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Orjinali burada ==>

Bu İrlandalı yazarların Romanov hanedanı ile bu kadar yakından ilgilenmesinin sebebi ne ola ki?
zmir’e yaptığım kısa bir ziyaretten mütevellit biraz uzayan bir okuma olsa da büyük zevk alarak okuduğum Romanovlar'ın Son Evi kitabı ile karşınızdayım. Özlem Yüksel çevirisi ile yayınlanan kitabın birkaç basım hatası ve cümle düşüklüğü dışında teknik bir kusurunu göremedim. Kapağı ise bana göre harikulade!
Kitaptan evvel dikkatimi çeken bir
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
Dec 04, 2013 Kristine rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Kristine by: Megan
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
Apr 15, 2013 Kara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-royal

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
Ruth Bonetti
Dec 28, 2014 Ruth Bonetti rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well crafted structural shape weaves the past in Russia of 1915-1919 with subsequent London and Paris. As the timeframe moves backwards from its 'present' we begin to guess what proves another take on an historical event that has intrigued many for half a century (as she bites fingers to resist a spoiler).
Sometimes the writing is a little ponderous, perhaps Boyne tries to capture regal phraseology. Yet the picture painted of Tsar Nicholas 11 is kinder than many might expect. It gave a satisfying
Mar 21, 2015 Tonya rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sonja
Another masterpiece by Boyne. An incredible story of the Romanovs and all the mystery that surrounds the family, the White Palace, Anastasia, Rasputin, the Tsar and the European playground that they ruled. There is not a moment you can claw away from this feat! I was swept up by sheer literary talent of a master story teller. I learnt so much, this book made me research and crave more detail. Boyne is a legend, I didn't think one could improve on The Absolutist, but he proved me wrong and I am g ...more
Nov 07, 2009 Anne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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...

Jul 20, 2013 Rickhow rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 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.
Sep 04, 2014 Marcia rated it it was amazing
Shelves: my-library
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
Aug 25, 2013 Jessica Dodds rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
Lucy March

I have mixed feelings on this book as a whole, somehow both loving and hating it at the same time.

For one thing I can never decide if I like the main character Georgy or not. I think, for the most part, I liked the old man he BECAME (as the book spans many decades) and I think hearing the story from his POV is very interesting, but I don't totally sympathize with YOUNG Georgy. It's not so much that he was passionate and selfish (even as an old man he has these same qualities to some extent), I
Sep 13, 2014 Virpi rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Well, I already wrote this review once, but my cat walked over the screen and I haven't seen the review since... So, here we go again:
My main complaint about this book is that I very much dislike having real-life characters as the main characters of a fictional book. I have read quite a bit on Russian history and particularly the last tsar and his family and I've grown rather fond of them. Thus I feel Mr. Boyne's novel doesn't do justice to them. The book could have been so much better had the m
Jul 19, 2014 Tina rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is one of those books that people kept telling me to read because I am a Romanov buff. I have read just about everything about the last Tsar and his family, so it's difficult for me to read fictional accounts of them sometimes. It's not impossible, though. I love historical fiction, and the Romanovs are classic pickings for the genre - especially when you consider the aftermath of the Russian Revolution. Everything I knew about the book going in pointed to my thoroughly enjoying it.

My revie
“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
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
Dec 27, 2011 Maryana rated it it was ok
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 liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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Romanovs: May Group Read Announced 23 42 Jan 11, 2014 10:57AM  
Romanovs: Spring Group Read 8 14 Apr 25, 2013 04:23PM  
  • The Diary of Olga Romanov: Royal Witness to the Russian Revolution
  • The Tsarina's Daughter
  • Sashenka
  • Anna (The Kirov Saga, #1)
  • The Romanov Bride
  • The True Memoirs of Little K
  • The Siege
  • The White Russian
  • The Last Empress: The Life and Times of Alexandra Feodorovna, Tsarina of Russia
  • Alix and Nicky: The Passion of the Last Tsar and Tsarina
  • Imperial Requiem: Four Royal Women and the Fall of the Age of Empires
  • The Mirrored World
  • The Romanov Conspiracy
  • Alexander II: The Last Great Tsar
  • The Red Scarf
  • The Romanov Legacy
  • Tsar: The Lost World of Nicholas and Alexandra
  • Little Mother of Russia: A Biography of the Empress Marie Feodorovna (1847-1928)
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 won the Curtis Brown prize. In 2015, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters by UEA.

John Boyne is the author of nine novels for adults and five for young readers, as well as a collection of short stories.

His nove
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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.” 10 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.”
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