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The House of Special Purpose

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  8,501 ratings  ·  987 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
Paperback, 469 pages
Published April 2nd 2013 by Other Press (first published May 15th 2009)
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John 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 gr…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)
Marty Fried Obnoxious enough that you will not like it - which does not seem to be very hard to do since you don't seem to like most books.…moreObnoxious enough that you will not like it - which does not seem to be very hard to do since you don't seem to like most books.(less)

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Average rating 4.12  · 
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 ·  8,501 ratings  ·  987 reviews

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Tender and compelling, a fascinating and engrossing story that make me grateful for historical fictional novels like The House of Special Purpose Just the book I needed to take me out of my reading slump 5⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

John Boyne is one of Ireland’s most diverse and creative writers and I absolutely love when he has a new book published however when I am awaiting his next book release I have to make do with a re-read and when my bookgroup chose The House of Special Purpose as our monthly read I re
Jan 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
So enjoyable!

It is always quite enjoyable to read a book which is so well written and engaging. This book of historical fiction brings one man's past and present together. Eighty-year-old Georgy Jachmenev is currently living in England with his wife Zoya. His wife is ill and as he reflects on their life, it is evident that their life was not as common as their friends believed. Georgy Jachmenev's life began in Russia and as he looks back on his life, we learn about his ties to Tsar Nicholas II,
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. I is here that he also finds the love of his life. 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 Roma
Jun 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Kristine
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
A stand alone novel by John Boyne published 2009.

As with every John Boyne book I have read this is, again, something special.

This is a love story with the Russian revolution as a backdrop.

For all the horrors that surround the Russian revolution there is a grace and gentility here that is quite uplifting.

A young man, Georgy, is removed from his hard working, impoverished life and dropped right into the middle of opulence that he found hard to comprehend. The opulence is so over whelming its like
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

3.5 stars

I still rank The Heart's Invisible Furies and A Ladder to the Sky as my favorite books by this author (and some of my favorite books in general, go read them!). However, this is still pretty good and renewed my faith in Boyne's writing after reading his somewhat lackluster latest release, A Traveler at the Gates of Wisdom.

This book is a fictional account of the ill-fated Romanov family, but delivered by a character/narrator that is outside of the royal family. This new view point and s
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
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
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
Jul 15, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.

I’m running out of praises for this author.
Jul 11, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although the subject matter is right up my street this book failed to grab me like so many of Boynes books have..
The story of Georgy Jachmenev, son of a poor farmer from a small village in Russia. Georgy is proclaimed a hero after stepping in front of a bullet intended for a senior member of the Russian imperial family and whisked off to St Petersburg to become a guard and companion to the Tsars young son.
Georgy ends up falling in love with one of the Tsars daughters and if you like me know the
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
Oct 28, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: br, historical, 2018
Not my favourite Boyne. Maybe because I couldn't buy into romanticising the story. A story which objectively I know caused the suffering of many, many, many people, not just one family. So I kept thinking of all the families not written about, forgotten, like Georgy's own family. Lost into oblivion. And so why all the special care for one family.

I like the pace and the writing in his The Heart's Invisible Furies and A Ladder to the Sky much better.
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
Dec 14, 2010 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
Apr 15, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, 2019
John Boyne definitely knows how to tell a story and I would have enjoyed this a lot more if it wasn't for the historical inaccuracies. Being very interested in the story of the Romanows and having read quite a bit about them, I just couldn't look past them.
I am however very much looking forward to reading other Boyne novels as I very much enjoyed his authorial voice.
On a very sad note....I will always remember this book as the one that I finished reading the night that Notre Dame burned down in
Caidyn (he/him/his)
Apr 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
Dropping this down to 4 stars because some of it didn't age well (i.e. just some general comments about women that were unneeded; no I don't have examples because I didn't mark them down) and that all of Boyne's male MCs all feel the same but with different names.

Original review:

The first reason I picked up this book was because of the title. I hold a place very dear in my heart for anything relating to the Romanovs and I always will. The second reason is because of John Boyne. This man is a mas
Not sure how to rate this one. There were good parts and not so good ones.

My biggest problem was the protagonist/1st person POV, with all my understanding and compassion for everything he went through, I couldn't really got warm with him.

An interesting version of what if/conspiracy theory that unfortunately didn't get to my core and kept me emotionally at distance.

**BR with my Sofia who was so busy this week that we didn't have a lot of opportunity to discuss it. Our next BR will be for sure bet
Oct 29, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, own
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. ...more
Carol Ann
May 22, 2017 rated it liked it
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.
Trish at Between My Lines
And the award for the saddest last line in a book EVER goes to The House of Special Purpose :(

I'm not crying, I'm not...ok I am *sniffles*
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
Toni Osborne
Nov 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 4000-books
This is one of the best works of historical fiction that I have read in a long time. The story of a country boy pulled into the lush and lavish world of the Romanov family simultaneously told with his future life as an elderly man in London is superb. The characters are wonderful, the setting is fantastic, the language is lovely. My only gripe is that I wanted more. Some characters are developed perfectly while I felt some others had so much story left to be told. But it is a testament to the au ...more
Boyne is the author of two of the best books I've read in the last year (A History of Loneliness and the wonderful The Heart's Invisible Furies), but this is the first time I've read one of his historical fictions. I was not quite as "grabbed" by this one, but it's still a very satisfying read, with well-developed characters and precisely-drawn emotions. The plot is a little improbable, but the book is so well-written that it doesn't really matter. Recommended if you enjoy intelligently-construc ...more
Feb 01, 2021 rated it really liked it
Great story of the Romanovs & the Bolshevik revolution told piecemeal through the 81 yr. old eyes of Georgy, a once Russian peasant in his youth. Georgy tells of his current life in England and recent past in France with his wife, Zoya, but all the while flashes back to the Russian revolution as pieces of the story fall into place. I felt Georgy’s sweet romantic love and heartbreaking yearning for Russia throughout the historic novel through the words of the seemingly effortless storytelling of ...more
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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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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“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.” 15 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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