THE KITCHEN BOY: A Novel of the Last Tsar

Robert Alexander, Author . Viking $23.95 (229p) ISBN 978-0-670-03178-8

The Romanovs are arguably second only to Jack the Ripper as objects of literary speculation. The story of their last days, their possible escape and the final resting place of the $500 million in jewels hidden in their clothing provides periodic grist for fiction writers. Alexander's first novel is based on "decades of painstaking research" and access to previously sealed Russian archives. He has produced a detailed version of the Romanovs' captivity, but the book fails to deliver much drama, despite the inherent mystery of the events. Narrated by 94-year-old Mikhail Semyanov, a Russian immigrant now living outside Chicago, the novel travels back to the bloody days of the Russian revolution, when the entire royal family is imprisoned in Siberia, in a building known as the House of Special Purpose. There, the seven Romanovs—Tsar Nikolai, his wife Aleksandra, their hemophiliac son, Aleksei, and their four daughters—are confined with a small staff of attendants, including Leonka, the kitchen boy of the title, who may or may not be narrator Mikhail. The captivity is seen from Leonka's point of view, and his focus on the gravely ill Aleksei prevents the development of a fully nuanced portrait of the rest of the family. Instead, they're depicted as passive victims of a tyranny even worse than the czarist state. Though impressively detailed, the novel is often as static as a museum exhibit, with notes and documents held up for display. Most of the suspense is held for the end, a denouement that reveals Mikhail's identity and Alexander's imaginative theory about the final dispensation of the Romanov jewels. Agent, Marly Rusoff. (Feb.)

FYI:Russophiles may want to access Alexander's bibliography, plus copies of the documents that he studied and historical photos, on his Web site:www.thekitchenboy.com.

Reviewed on: 12/16/2002
Release date: 01/01/2003
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover - 357 pages - 978-1-58724-457-5
Ebook - 978-0-7865-3492-0
Ebook - 978-0-7865-3491-3
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