tea_for_two's Reviews > The Romanovs: The Final Chapter

The Romanovs by Robert K. Massie
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's review
Jul 15, 2012

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bookshelves: 2012, history, nonfiction
Read from July 13 to 17, 2012

The Romanovs is an through survey of the Romanov family post-Russian revolution. Massie discusses the execution of the Imperial family, the contemporary theories about their deaths, the search for the remains, the academic and legal debate surrounding the identification of the bodies and a history of Romanov pretenders. Massie has done his research, and provides a well researched and organized account, especially the confusing scientific and legal battles. In addition, Massie talks about the other branches of the Romanov family that escaped Russia before the revolution.

I learned a lot reading The Romanovs, including quite a bit about the science of DNA testing, which I wasn't expecting. It was interesting to read about the legal debate surrounding Anna Anderson's remains and the different methods of identifying the skeletal remains. Russian and American scientists used different techniques, which resulted in different results, and it's still not known which Grand Dutchess - Maria or Anastasia - was found in the mass grave.

My only real quibble with The Romanovs was the lack of background information provided about the family and the Russian Revolution. It reads more like the final section of a book about the Romanov family and prior knowledge of the family and the Russian Revolution (which I know very little about) is required to fully understand the story. I know that The Romanovs is suppose to be the "final chapter" of the Romanov family and Massie has written a biography of the Nicholas II, his family and their political demise, but providing historical context would have been helpful and is standard practice in popular nonfiction.

One last caveat, The Romanovs was written in 1996 and there have been some significant developments in the past fifteen years, including the discovery of the remains of the missing Romanov children (Alexei and either Maria or Anastasia), that are obviously not addressed in the book. It's still a worthwhile read, but The Romanovs no longer presents a complete picture of what is known about the Romanovs.

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