An intimate account of the life of Nicholas II, last tsar of imperial Russia, his German empress Alexandra and their five children, this is, au fond and explicitly, a curious addition to the literature of the link between private health and public history. Mr. Massie, whose own son suffers from hemophilia, was drawn to this study by the fact that the Tsarevich Alexis was the victim of the disease. His thesis: without Rasputin, the Romanovs could have survived. Rasputin attained his power in court, particularly over Alexandra, because he ministered effectively to the suffering Alexis. He managed the placement and displacement of ministers through the empress, maneuvers critical for the empire. Thus, Alexis' hemophilia spelled disaster. In telling the story of the Romanovs, Mr. Massie does not dwell too long on this or the greater complexities of politics which he does not appear to compass. It is the affecting human drama that unfolds here with its backdrop of three-hundred years of Romanov rule. Nicholas is portrayed as a gentle, kind, friendly man whose private virtues were public flaws: his ineffectual non-rule hangs like a shadow over the proceedings. How seriously this will be taken as history remains in question--for all its scope, it maintains a superficiality in crucial aspects which will serve it better in the marketplace than in the academy, but there it should do very well. It immediately engrosses and appears to enlighten.