Book Review: The Kitchen Boy

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[img_assist|fid=3483|thumb=1|alt=The Kitchen Boy]
What is it about the Romanovs that so fascinates us? Dozens of movies, hundreds of books, thousands of articles and we still wonder what really happened that July night in Ekatherinburg. My own interest in the Romanovs began in 1999 when I took a Russian history course that began with the downfall of the royal family. Most of the course focused on Communism but I had learned just enough to itch at my brain. Unfortunately I did not have the time to read more then and my interest was pushed to the back of my brain. A year later during my spring break I grabbed a copy of Dead Men Do Tell Tales by Dr. William R. Maples (please note that this book is not for the squeamish, if you can't sit through CSI Dead Men Do Tell Tales is not for you). Dr. Maples was one of the Americans that went to Europe in the 1990s and worked on identifying the exhumed bodies of the Romanovs. But even then, mystery remained as there were two bodies missing. The Romanovs left us with perhaps a perfect combination of fact and mystery - just enough of both to let our imaginations run away with us. One of the result of such imaginings is Robert Alexander's The Kitchen Boy: a novel of the last Tsar.

Please forgive my years of lies, but now I must tell you the truth. What I wish to confess is that I was the kitchen boy in the Ipatiev House where the Tsar and Tsaritsa, Nikolai and Aleksandra, were imprisoned. This was in Siberia. And...and the night they were executed I was sent away. They sent me away, but I snuck back, and that night, the moonless night of July 16-17, 1918, I saw the Tsar and his family come down the back twenty-three steps of the Ipatiev House, I saw them go into that cellar room...and I saw them shot.

This novel caught my eye months ago. I added it to my ever growing list of books to read and then promptly forgot about it. But it's been making the rounds on blogs as it was chosen as the February book at Our Coffee Rings. It renewed my interest in reading it and within days the library had it to me. And I'm so happy I did. The Kitchen Boy was a delicious page turner. With every page I fought an internal battle between savouring each word and rushing forward gulping in pages to get to the point where I would find out the truth. You are looking not only for the truth of what happened to the Romanovs that night but the truth of a single man. The Romanovs are not the only ones with secrets.

Inspired by two lines of text Aleksandra's own personal diary it is a captivating story. If you need more inducement you can head over to Robert Alexander's website to see a book trailer for the novel. There you can also find group reading guides for your bookclub and pages of recommended non-fiction on the last days of the Romanovs. I'm off to hit up my library for Alexander's second novel, Rasputin's Daughter.
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Photo credit:Penguin Books USA page on The Kitchen Boy.
Quotation taken from the Penguin Books USA 2003 paperback edition, page 3.
Contributing Editor Sassymonkey also blogs at Sassymonkey and Sassymonkey Reads.

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