The Romanovs were the most successful dynasty of modern times, ruling a sixth of the world's surface. How did one family turn a war-ruined principality into the world's greatest empire? And how did they lose it all?
This is the intimate story of 20 tsars and tsarinas, some touched by genius, some by madness, but all inspired by holy autocracy and imperial ambition. Montefiore's gripping chronicle reveals their secret world of unlimited power and ruthless empire building, overshadowed by palace conspiracy, family rivalries, sexual decadence and wild extravagance and peopled by a cast of adventurers, courtesans, revolutionaries and poets, from Ivan the Terrible to Tolstoy, from Queen Victoria to Lenin.
To rule Russia was both imperial-sacred mission and poisoned chalice. Six tsars were murdered, and all the Romanovs lived under constant threat to their lives. Peter the Great tortured his own son to death while making Russia an empire and dominated his court with a dining club notable for compulsory drunkenness, naked dwarfs and fancy dress. Catherine the Great overthrew her own husband - who was murdered soon afterwards - loved her young male favourites, conquered Ukraine and fascinated Europe. Paul was strangled by courtiers backed by his own son, Alexander I, who faced Napoleon's invasion and the burning of Moscow, then went on to take Paris. Alexander II liberated the serfs, survived five assassination attempts, and wrote perhaps the most explicit love letters ever written by a ruler.
The Romanovs: 1613-1918 climaxes with a fresh, unforgettable portrayal of Nicholas and Alexandra, the rise and murder of Rasputin, war and revolution - and the harrowing massacre of the entire family. Written with dazzling literary flair, drawing on new archival research, The Romanovs: 1613-1918 is at once an enthralling story of triumph and tragedy, love and death, a universal study of power and an essential portrait of the empire that still defines Russia today.
©2016 Simon Sebag Montefiore (P)2016 Orion Publishing Group
This book was a really fantastic look at a topic not known by most of the historically literate west. The author does a fantastic job at explaining this usually new material in a way that, while detailed, is easy to follow. Although there were times when the amount of names got confusing, the narrative was so centered around the important characters, that confusion was kept to a minimum.
This book did not propose any groundbreaking insights or controversial theories, but rather it told a long, detailed story well. It is one of the best books I have listened to on Audible to date.
I wasnt sure I would like the narrative style of this series, but I ended up quite enjoying it. The story itself is amazing, it has everthing. I went on a journey, culminating in tears at the end, so involved I had become without even realising.
I'm sure this is a great recording of the history of Russia, but after three chapters I couldn't keep up with the names of those involved. It really became like listening to a phone book bring recited. Maybe it's just me.
"A very interesting story told poorly"
No because as much as I love the Russian history depicted in this book, the narrator was reading the book far too fast. it quite often sounded like I had accidentally increased the speed of the narration on the Audible app.
It is somewhat disappointing since the narrator sounds incredibly bored even when it is discussing some of the most exciting parts of the history be they murders or intense political plans for succession or peace after a long war.
The comparison might seem odd but the closest comparison I can think of is SPQR: A History Of Ancient Rome. The reason is simply that it takes an interesting and engaging historical story and makes It sound boring. In fact SPQR is more interesting as its author attempts to give their opinion on events rather than simply reel them off like it is required for an assignment.
I'm not sure about a film but I have seen the author discuss various topics in television documentaries for the BBC. Those are much more engaging because it is clear that the author finds the topics personally fascinating and he attempts to explain why events happened or what could have happened if things had been different.
"Disappointing in form and narration"
As it stands it is simply a litany of dates, atrocities and unmemorable Russian names
He spoke far too quickly and indistinctly, making it very difficult to follow
Among the thousands? And not any of the Romanovs, surely.
"Classic history book."
Loved it. Very enlightening history of last Royal family. So much murder and treachery both home and abroad. And the legacy of their deaths that makes current political situation in Russia what it is now, tyrannical.
Easy listen to a very complex story. Beautifully told, I might have found it a challenge to read, but on this format, splendid.
"Not really overwhelmed"
I have heard a lot of good about Montefiore and started reading his Jerusalem sometime ago. To my great surprise the book that should be very interested and seemed well narrated turned out to be a challenge. The same goes with this one - it should be very interesting and somewhat it is not.
Well, it is not I guess a narrator's fault as there was a person responsible for pronounciation listed in credentials but believe me, the Russian names in this audiobook are hadly recognisible for someone who is a Slav (I'm actually a Pole and I was taught Russian for 8 long years). The person responsible for pronounciation certainly did a lousy job. And I'm really curious what Khrushchev would sound like in this interpretarion
The most interesting parts for me were those concerning Alexander II and Alexander III. These two tsars are the ones I know least about, so I had to take Montefiore's text at face value - and then it was quite enjoyable.
The most boring grisly book I have ever read. A long list of names too boring to remember and details of atrocities involving ( among others ) the killing, dismembering, cooking and eating of children. Is this what I want to hear in a history book? No.
"So hard to listen to"
The reader swallows his words and speaks too quickly. I am spending so much time wondering what he has just said that I can't concentrate on the actual story. I'm going to have to give up on it. Life's too short.
"just an executive summary of an amazing period"
the subject is amazing. How could people endure this sytem so long.
a detailed view into the less glorious habits and most basic instinct of the Russian people of the time. Fascinating but not really important for someone intersted in the history of the time.
more than matched, went too quicly for such a story
I did not expect this from Sebag Montefiore, after all his other books. The reader was much too quick; I think that the audiobook would be more convincing if the reader was to pause more often. Possibly he did not do justice to the author.
"A gripping account of a remarkable dynasty"
I would listen to this again: it's a fast-paced tour of centuries of intrigue, violence and courtly power politics. Despite their being a vast amount of information here the writing style is compelling and the narration from Simon Russell Beale keeps it going along at a fast pace.
This is a much broader work than the other Simon Sebag Montefiore book I've read: 'Young Stalin' (about the Dictator' early years and rise). 'The Romanovs' contains the same exciting style and eye for detail - but you can't help thinking that there is bit too much here to shoehorn into a single volume.
As a result the work is strong on some areas (the power dynamics of the 18th Century Romanov courts, the burgeoning anti-Semitism of the later era) but weak on others: major events like Napoleon's invasion of 1812 and the Crimean War don't receive the treatment they deserve, and the deeper structural changes (such as industrialisation and Russia's military position) aren't properly explained either. As a result the narrative can feel lopsided, in a way I didn't find with 'Young Stalin'.
Simon Russell Beale has a clear voice and the team have obviously done their work on pronunciation. While their could be a bit more variety of tone in places I thought the pacing and style suited the subject matter.
I felt that Montefiore revels a bit in gory violence: the accounts of the terrible violence meted out by Tsar Alexei and his son Peter The Great can sound at times almost gleeful. However later in the narrative this has calmed down a bit and is more sombre; the accounts of the executions of Nicholas II and his family were particularly harrowing.
Overall I highly recommend this audiobook, especially for those who enjoy narrative history and a good bit of blood, sex and intrigue.
Nevertheless it is a serious work, which both entertains and informs, although I felt it lacked an overall theme to pull the story of the Romanovs together, and was weak in certain pretty significant areas of Russian history.
But these faults shouldn't be overstated: Montefiore paints an enormous canvas vividly and with flair, and while some parts of the picture may be less in focus than I would have liked, the level of detail in the areas he has devoted himself to is very impressive.
"A rambling history"
A detailed and informative history of the Romanov's. I wasn't sure of the narrator's pronunciation of Romanov and Anastacia, but this did not spoil the historical facts. Definitely not to be attempted quickly, as there is so much information.
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