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The House of Special Purpose

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4.08  ·  Rating Details ·  4,527 Ratings  ·  580 Reviews
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 his days. Living in England with his beloved wife Zoya, Georgy prepares to make one final journey back to the Russia he once knew and loved, the Russia that both destroyed and defined him.

As Georgy remembers days gone by, we are transpor
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Paperback, 496 pages
Published April 15th 2010 by Black Swan (first published 2009)
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Ivan This is not Russian Literature. In fact, it is anything but. The author does not know anything about Russian literature or history. It is full with…moreThis is not Russian Literature. In fact, it is anything but. The author does not know anything about Russian literature or history. It is full with gross mistakes and nonsense. About as close to Russian Lit as Hamlet is to Scandinavian one.(less)
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Community Reviews

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B the BookAddict



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

Georgy finds the course of his life is altered when he becomes the young bodyguard to Prince Alexei Romanov. 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 protagonists must
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Megan
Jun 21, 2012 Megan rated it it was amazing  ·  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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Cher
4.5 stars - Incredible. I really loved it.

This was the first novel I read by John Boyne, and I am thrilled that I have more to choose from as I really enjoyed his writing style. This poignant tale about the Romanovs, the Russian civil war, and 60 years of a married couple's love story was simply wonderful.

The author did take a few liberties with known historical facts which is bothersome in historical fiction (I prefer the liberties to be with the unknowns, but such is personal preference), som
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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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Sonja Arlow
I have always been interested in Russian history/people but for some reason have only ever read one other book that deals with the Romanovs.

Through the eyes of the personal bodyguard of the only son of Tsar Nicolas II, the opulence of the royal family was put in sharp contrast beside the hunger, exhaustion and discontent of the masses during World War 1.

Initially the writing was wonderful and effortlessly pulled me into the story and culture of rural Russia however this great momentum started sl
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Nicki
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Pam Jaramillo
Apr 14, 2017 Pam Jaramillo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Este libro me dejo pensando. Aun necesito tiempo para decidir cuanto me gusto.
Julia
Dec 14, 2010 Julia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aviones de papel
El estilo de escritura de John Boyne es bastante bueno, me ha gustado más que en el primer libro que leí de él "El niño con el pijama de rayas" y el desarrollo de la novela es en general bastante entretenido, con algunas partes apoteósicas y otras no tanto. Está muy bien que te hablen de la famila Romanov desde un punto de vista que pocas veces se ha hablado. Lo malo es que los personajes y su historia de amor me han dejado bastante indiferente, a parte de recurrir al instalove, y si el autor pr ...more
Shakira
4.25... I was thinking 3.75 until the second half of the book where it just got so much better. Ah this book picked up so much nearer the second half. I definitely enjoyed this one and yet again John Boyne has me impressed by hos ability to write between different time periods so well. It's like his signature almost. This one was even more impressive on that scale since this book had more ro it and I won't explain because spoilers but yes a solid 4.25 stars for me.
Margarida
Apr 02, 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
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Morgan
I have tried to prolong my reading of this book as long as humanly possible while still progressing with it. I never wanted it to end. And as it came to a close (I was in tears, surprise surprise) it still came way too soon. I don't believe there was a character I disliked or one that I hated hearing from, the exception being the craziness that is Rasputin/Father Gregory. My heart feels for each of these characters and I want to reread this and hope for a better outcome. Needless to say, this is ...more
Tina
Jul 15, 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
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Banafsheh Serov
Jul 15, 2010 Banafsheh Serov rated it it was ok
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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Abril Camino
Feb 14, 2017 Abril Camino rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Qué maravilla. Una novela técnicamente perfecta, con una estructura compleja pero perfectamente ejecutada. Una historia de amor y dolor increíblemente narrada. Un poco fantasioso y previsible el final, pero se le perdona todo. A mediados de febrero y ya tengo claro que será top 3 de lecturas del año. Recomendadísima.
Carol Ann
Boyne is an absolutely terrific writer. Riveted from the first page, exhausted by the last. Maybe a tad too long, but interesting, compelling and poignant. Hoping for a movie treatment. 3.5 stars.
Natalie
Feb 27, 2016 Natalie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2016
I već pri zadnjih 50tak stranica sam imala odluku da ću joj dati 3 zvijezdice jer mi je jako dobar dio povijesti o Romaniovima u zimskom dvorcu ali ne i tako zanimljiv dio ''sadašnjiosti'' oko glavnog lika i njegove žene. Onda se dogodio mali ''nježni'' preokret i u toj ''sadašnjosti'' kad se otkrilo tko je to zapravo :)))) ...pa eto opet me ''smekšao'' i 4 je čist dovoljno.
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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Toni Osborne
Nov 05, 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
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
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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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Noelia
Feb 27, 2016 Noelia rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Noelia by: Mamá
Shelves: 2016
Al principio, la historia y la forma en la que ésta estaba estructurada me parecieron originales, pero que una idea sea buena no quiere decir que esté articulada correctamente. El principal problema ha sido la escritura de Boyne: pobre e insípida. A todo esto se añade la falta de misterio, porque el libro es predecible hasta decir basta, y la falta de coherencia en las acciones del protagonista.

Mi conclusión: no me parece una lectura recomendable. Hay por ahí libros que merecen más la pena.

Laura
May 20, 2011 Laura rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Laura by: Bettie☯
From BBC Radio 4 Extra:

John Boyne's haunting novel travels to the heart of the Russian empire where young imperial family bodyguard Georgy Jachmenev is privy to the secrets of Tsar Nicholas and his wife Alexandra.
Pam Walter
I love reading Russian history and when I read the great ratings and reviews on "The House of Special Purpose", I had to try it. The story begins in 1981 when Georgy Jachmenev, a retired librarian from the British Museum is caring for his beloved wife Zoya who is dying from cancer. It is written in the first person of Georgy, and moves back and forth to various times in their lives.

Georgy was a simple farm child from a large family who saved the life of the Tsar's cousin and was taken to the ca
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Aykut Kısa
Apr 19, 2015 Aykut Kısa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Orjinali burada ==> http://iyikikitaplarvar.blogspot.com....


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
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Kristine
Sep 03, 2012 Kristine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Maryana
Nov 30, 2011 Maryana rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: senior-fiction
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
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
Kara
Feb 27, 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
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Romanovs: May Group Read Announced 23 44 Jan 11, 2014 10:57AM  
Romanovs: Spring Group Read 8 14 Apr 25, 2013 04:23PM  
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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 won the Curtis Brown prize. In 2015, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters by UEA.

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

His novel
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More about John Boyne...

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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.” 12 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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