NONFICTION MONDAY: The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming

Murder, Rebellion & The Fall of Imperial Russia

by Candace Fleming

Schwartz & Wade Books, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-375-86782-8

YA Nonfiction

Source: purchased

All opinions expressed are solely my own.


“[A] superb history…. In these thrilling, highly readable pages, we meet Rasputin, the shaggy, lecherous mystic…; we visit the gilded ballrooms of the doomed aristocracy; and we pause in the sickroom of little Alexei, the hemophiliac heir who, with his parents and four sisters, would be murdered by the Bolsheviks in 1918.” —The Wall Street Journal

Here is the tumultuous, heartrending, true story of the Romanovs—at once an intimate portrait of Russia’s last royal family and a gripping account of its undoing. Using captivating photos and compelling first person accounts, award-winning author Candace Fleming (Amelia Lost;The Lincolns) deftly maneuvers between the imperial family’s extravagant lives and the plight of Russia’s poor masses, making this an utterly mesmerizing read as well as a perfect resource for meeting Common Core standards.

“An exhilarating narrative history of a doomed and clueless family and empire.” —Jim Murphy, author of Newbery Honor Books An American Plague and The Great Fire

“For readers who regard history as dull, Fleming’s extraordinary book is proof positive that, on the contrary, it is endlessly fascinating, absorbing as any novel, and the stuff of an altogether memorable reading experience.” —Booklist, Starred

“Marrying the intimate family portrait of Heiligman’s Charles and Emmawith the politics and intrigue of Sheinkin’s Bomb, Fleming has outdone herself with this riveting work of narrative nonfiction that appeals to the imagination as much as the intellect.” —The Horn Book, Starred


I’ve heard about the murder of the Romanov’s, I mean, who hasn’t, what with the Disney movie Anastasia and everything.  But there was a lot I didn’t know.  This book has filled in a lot of the blanks.  There will always be things that aren’t known, but Fleming does an amazing job of making the events leading up to and including the murder of the Romanov’s quite understandable.  The book is divided up into chapters that address both the Romanov’s life before and during the revolution but also takes a look at some of the people behind the revolution, including Vladimir Lenin, who became the first face of Communist Russia (Soviet Union).

It’s not a particularly happy story as it involves great suffering, poor leadership, and a great deal of ignorance. Tsar Nicholas II contributed a great deal to the events that lead up to the revolution by making very poor decisions about how to handle his people’s discontent.  Unfortunately choosing to follow in his father’s brutal steps, Nicholas shut down the rebellion, but only for a time.  Add to that World War I and more suffering and death, and what to the soldiers seemed like an uncaring Tsar only increased the anger and hatred that culminated in the revolution. 

What I found especially interesting were the descriptions of the chaos that created the opening the Bolsheviks needed.  Reading about the last days of the Romanov’s was sad, but it was also sad to think about the tens of thousands of others who died during World War I as well as the civil war between the tsar’s supporters and the Bolsheviks.  It just reminded me that war hurts everyone it touches.  Ironically, even Lenin eventually realized that the Bolsheviks communist vision had failed.  When Lenin died and Stalin took control, Russia ended up with a government even worse than what they had had under the tsar.

A vividly portrayed and eminently readable account of an important and intriguing series of events that we can still learn from today.  Highly recommended.  I heartily agree with the talk about this title as a possible Newbery winner.