THE LAST TSAR

THE LIFE AND DEATH OF NICHOLAS II

On July 17, 1918, Nicholas II—the last tsar in the 300-year- old Romanov dynasty—and his wife, five children, family doctor, and three servants were executed in the storage room of a squalid house in a small Siberian city, their bodies burned, then buried in a mine shaft. From previously hidden royal diaries and letters, the testimony of the executioners, and the reminiscences of friends and descendants, Radzinsky, a popular Russian playwright, dramatizes the Romanovs' final, poignant days—the confusion, mystery, and waste. Radzinsky begins by re-creating the personalities and events of happier times: Nicholas, doting, charming, ineffectual; ``Little Wifey,'' as he called his empress, the half-mad, superstitious, demanding granddaughter of Queen Victoria; the four daughters, dressed in white; the hemophiliac son, beloved but bored; the demonic Rasputin; and the clutch of cousins and generals who secluded the royal family from the popular unrest, terrorism, and war that marked Nicholas's reign. Radzinsky's dramatic technique of weaving together scraps from the family's diaries and letters is particularly effective in the book's second half. There, he follows the Romanovs through their final year after Nicholas's abdication, a year during which the family—waiting to be rescued by the tsar's English cousin, King George, or to seek refuge in a monastery—was dragged around the countryside by unlettered Bolshevik guards until Lenin himself, deciding on the ``simple'' and ``ingenious'' solution to the Romanovs' fate, gave the order for their execution, recounted here in brutal detail. Like James Blair Lovell in Anastasia (1991), Radzinsky incorporates into his story his own pursuit of historical truth, sharing his frustrations and fascinations; and he confirms what Lovell demonstrated—that the Romanovs tend to inspire exceptional writing, lyrical, precise, and intense. (Fifty b&w photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: July 17, 1992

ISBN: 0-385-42371-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1992

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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DEAR MR. HENSHAW

Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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