The Romanovs

  • by Robert K. Massie
  • Narrated by Geoffrey Howard
  • 10 hrs and 48 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

In July 1991, nine skeletons were exhumed from a shallow mass grave near Ekaterinburg, Siberia, a few miles from the infamous cellar room where the last tsar and his family had been murdered 73 years before. But were these the bones of the Romanovs? And if these were their remains, where were the bones of the two younger Romanovs supposedly murdered with the rest of the family? Was Anna Anderson, celebrated for more than 60 years in newspapers, books, and film, really Grand Duchess Anastasia? The Romanovs provides the answers, describing in suspenseful detail the dramatic efforts to discover the truth.
Pulitzer Prize winner Robert K. Massie presents a colorful panorama of contemporary characters, illuminating the major scientific dispute between Russian experts and a team of Americans, whose findings, along with those of DNA scientists from Russia, America, and Great Britain, all contributed to solving one of the great mysteries of the 20th century.

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What the Critics Say

“Masterful.” (The Washington Post Book World)
“Riveting... unfolds like a detective story.” (Los Angeles Times Book Review)
“An admirable scientific thriller.” (The New York Times Book Review

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Interesting but fringe history

This book covers the execution of the Romanovs, the discovery of the real burial site, the extended and contentious process of verifying the identity of the remains, the various Romanov impostors (notably Anna Anderson), and the issues involving the theoretical succession of the czarship among the actual surviving royals. It's an account of what occurs in the wake and backwaters of history after the important historical forces have steamed past.

There are some solid accounts of fascinating historical detective work. There are also extensive descriptions of the disputes and squabbles amongst impassioned and eccentric characters about matters that seem to be of purely symbolic or parochial significance. Who has jurisdiction over the Romanov bones? How should the Anna Anderson samples be DNA tested? Who is properly in line for the nonexistent throne of Russia?

A little of this is fascinating, but more can feel like painful overkill, and I experienced both listening to the book. Stretches feel like being trapped in the middle seat on an airplane with bitterly opposed monomaniacs on either side, grinding their axes and splitting hairs that only they know or care about.

But if you can let those stretches pass, the book is a interesting, if rather slight and peripheral, gloss on russian history and culture.
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- Grant

Very "technical"

Any additional comments?

This book really isn't about the Tzar and his family's last days. The first third is about the finding of the bones, tons of details, and the legal battles. The second third is about Anna Anderson but mostly about the legal battles over preserved body parts and who would test them for DNA. The last third is mostly a long list of ancestors who may have claim to the throne (At least he never used the word begat!). At the end, a little about the last days by way of quoting Alexandra's diary................................................................................................................................................. I enjoyed the book but it absolutely wasn't what I was expecting. The discussions of what the judge told such-and-such and which scientists were allowed to see the bones were a bit tedious. And the minute detail about DNA testing were over the top. A good reading of a pretty good book about legalities and science of the near past.

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- lhb

Book Details

  • Release Date: 08-16-2011
  • Publisher: Random House Audio