Monday, November 11, 2013

Nicholas and Alexandra

Nicholas and Alexandra
by Robert K. Massie

Last spring, back in Bogota, a friend handed me a book saying it was on her punch list of things to read, but I should take it since we were moving to Russia.  I took the worn copy, flipped through the 530 pages and decided it would be my spring reading.  Spring turned into summer which faded into fall as I slowly made my way through this book.  

I have always been intrigued by the Tsars of Russia and the Romanov dynasty.  I remember checking out books from the library in jr. high and becoming lost in the story of Anastasia.  "Did she really escape the cruel execution?" I used to wonder.  

Massie is easy to read, although the information tends to go on and on at points making it a bit of a slow journey through their lives.  If you are moving to Russia I would highly recommend reading this.  I began to feel as though I was understanding a small bit of the history of this country.  Who are they?  What did they rebel against?  What drove them to the revolution? What made Lenin so appealing?  What brought about communism?  These are not easy questions and it takes comprehending centuries of history to begin to glean an understanding.

Nocholas was the last Tsar of Russia.  He truly loved his wife Alexandra from Germany.  Her Grandmother was Queen Victoria of England.  Massie lays out the family tree showing the extent of intermarriage through the royalty of Europe.  Massie explores so many facets of the family's life to give an understanding of all that affected them.  For example:  The only son of the couple, Alexis, had hemophilia.  This recessive gene was passed down from his great-grandmother Victoria, thus effecting several royal families in Euorpe.  Because of this disease Rasputin was eventually called in to pray over the boy.  This led to a tight alliance between Alexandra and Rasputin who highly influenced decisions made in court that eventually led to the downfall of the royal familly.  

I also gained an understanding of the disparity between the roayl class and the working class.  The Tsar simply could not understand the life of the peasants and the needs they had.  Without a small bit of realization it is impossible to make change.

So it was worth it to say "no" to book club invitations and "no" to other reading options for the last 7
 months to read this book.  One of those subtle shifts has happened inside of me causing me to see Russia and its people through slightly different eyes.

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