Tsar by Peter Kurth

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Tsar: The Lost World of Nicolas and Alexandra is a non-fiction book by Peter Kurth. It tells the tale of Nicholas and Alexandra Romanov's romance from start to finish. It even goes back into their respective childhoods, though only briefly. The story of the Romanovs is one that needs little embellishment to be made interesting. Peter Kurth portrays the reality in such a way that the reader cannot help but become engrossed in the tragedy of this royal family.

One of the first things readers will notice is the number of photographs in Peter Kurth's book. The man behind these photographs is Peter Christopher. The photos that Peter included of the grand duchesses and the tsarevitch (Nicholas and Alexandra's children) are all at once adorable, fascinating and haunting. Anyone familiar with the story knows that most, if not all, of the Romanov children were brutally murdered alongside their parents. Their charming appearance and evident innocence is revealed in these photos and they leave one wondering what kind of monsters could do this to a loving family. The answer is not hard to come by–The Bolsheviks.

While Peter Christopher's story unfolds in a seemingly endless parade of attention-grabbing photography, Peter Kurth provides what history is available to explain these pictures. In Tsar: The Lost World of Nicholas and Alexandra, he is able to present Nicholas and Alexandra's lack of political tact from a sympathetic point of view. He does the same when describing Alexandra's stiff posture and unsmiling face. Many thought of her as a snob. Peter goes back to her childhood and declares her shy and saddened from a childhood of tragedy.

Peter Kurth manages to describe the Romanov children with what little information is available given their mostly secluded lives. What is known of them is known mostly through their correspondence with each other. In this correspondence, they are unfailingly loving and dedicated to their families. In including this alongside photos of their beautiful faces, Peter has shown just how far removed from the turmoil of the Romanov's Russia these children were. Their murders were a form of vengeance; what did these children do to deserve it? Peter's answer (and the one that is most obviously true): nothing. The Romanov children did nothing to deserve their end. In fact, Alexei's invalidity and the girls' lack of involvement in politics should have saved them from their fate.

In Tsar: The Lost World of Nicholas and Alexandra, Peter Kurth is opinionated, at times but always sympathetically so, which gives heart to this sad story. Peter is the defender of the Romanovs on every page, but he still manages to add all the facts about the serious mistakes they made during Nicholas' reign. The only other criticism that can be made about this informative and infinitely readable book is that it is sometimes lacking in useful chronology. For the most part, it barges along in chronological order, but there are brief snippets that are out of chronology and do not include helpful dates. Therefore, as a research book, it would require the reader to use additional sources. Apart from that, it is a wonderful book that anyone with an interest in the Romanovs would enjoy.

Shelly Barclay

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