TSAR by Peter Kurth


The Lost World of Nicholas and Alexandra
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 A riveting photographic record of the lives of Nicholas and Alexandra that emphasizes their sheltered world and its consequences, both personal and political. Nicholas, Alexandra, and their five children led a life of extreme regimentation. Fortunately, their daily routine included ``slow, cozy evenings of reading, sewing and pasting photos into albums.'' Each of the tsar's four daughters had a camera, as did the heir to the throne, Alexei, and they even developed their own film. The resulting trove of 200 diverse photographs ranges from documentation of public events and ceremonies (coronation, funerals, the 300th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty, the 1905 revolution) to the extremely intimateincluding a shot of the tsar's nude posterior under water. Adding to the sense of the ``lost world'' invoked in the book's subtitle are the additional 150 contemporary color photographs of royal palaces and other locales that continue to impress despite their sometimes ruined state. Kurth (Anastasia, 1983; American Cassandra, 1990) has geared his accompanying narrative to the more personal aspects of Nicholas and Alexandra, returning to the history of their families and their younger years. He paints a more complex and sympathetic portrait of the oft-ridiculed Alexandra, whom he presents as a solemn German princess lost in a culture of unusual opulence. And in what some will consider an overly generous assessment, Nicholas is portrayed as a misguided but not a malicious ruler, moving ``from blunder to blunder.'' But the strength of Tsar lies in the photographs themselves, which together with the highly readable text vividly restore to us the unique world of the Romanov court and the personalities of the ill-fated royal family. Above all, they remind us of the Romanovs' ``life of splendid isolation,'' removed from all levels of Russian society. A moving and groundbreaking presentation (the companion volume to a National Geographic TV special) that will fascinate readers of every sort. (Book-of-the-Month Club selection)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-316-50787-3
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1995


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