A LIFELONG PASSION by Andrei Maylunas


Nicholas and Alexandra, Their Own Story
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 A fascinating, complex, and highly charged saga of the decline of a family, a nation, and a way of life. This is a curious book--one that both satisfies and frustrates in unpredictable ways. Editors Maylunas, a Romanov scholar, and Mironenko, director of the Russian State Archive, clearly present the correspondence, diaries, and excerpts from published memoirs collected here as the stuff of romance, passion, and myth--a ``fairy tale turned into tragedy.'' As the documents here attest, there is no denying that Nicholas and Alexandra enjoyed a lifelong romance, a love deepened by their shared anxiety about their hemophiliac only son, Alexei, heir to the throne. Yet the romantic aspect of these letters makes for dull reading--how many times can one digest passages of this sort: ``My sweet One, how I love you, darling treasure, my very own One.'' The real virtue of this collection lies in the contributions by members of the larger Romanov family and observers--fascinating, colorful, and truly revealing accounts of the political atmosphere of the final tsar's reign. Among the more striking examples is the melancholy recognition by certain members of the Romanov family that they are witnessing the decline of both the dynasty and the Russian nation, and that the two are inextricably linked. Nicholas is the object of damning criticism: The French ambassador Paleologue describes his ``usual apathy.'' Alexandra, the object of great reproach among politicians for her sway over her husband, obliges with the following comment to Nicholas in 1917: ``Our people are idiots.'' Family problems abound, from undesirable marriages to commoners and divorce to homosexuality. The reader gains an impression of the cloistered life led by Nicholas and Alexandra and the disastrous results of their naãvetÇ and complacency. The tragedy revealed in A Lifelong Passion is that if Nicholas had been as passionate and attentive about ruling as he was about being a husband and father, he might just have been able to avoid the fateful demise of his family and his empire. (16 pages color photos, 2 b&w photos, not seen; maps)

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-385-48673-1
Page count: 544pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1997