Monday, March 18, 2013

Review: "The House of Special Purpose" by John Boyne

From Goodreads: 
Part love story, part historical epic, part tragedy, "The House of Special Purpose "illuminates an empire at the end of its reign.
Eighty year old Georgy Jachmenev is haunted by his past -- a past of death, suffering and scandal that will stay with him until the end of his days. Living in England with his beloved wife Zoya, Georgy prepares to make one final journey back to the Russia he once knew and loved, the Russia that both destroyed and defined him.
As Georgy remembers days gone by, we are transported to St. Petersburg in the early 20th century, to the Winter Palace of the Tsar. A time of change, threat and bloody revolution.
And as Georgy overturns the most painful stone of all, we uncover the story of the house of special purpose.

My Thoughts:  I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  I can't stay away from any book set in Russia so when I saw this book I had to read it.  The House of Special Purpose  takes place in the present and in Imperial Russia towards the end of the of last Romanov tsar's reign.  We meet Georgy Jachmenev in the present in London; he is an elderly gentleman taking care of his dying wife but through his memories, he takes us back to his youth in St. Petersburg when he worked for Tsar Nicholas II as the bodyguard of Tsarevich Alexei. 

The story had a lot of minor characters but focused mostly on Georgy Jachmenev and his experiences.  I have a soft spot for old men so I really loved Georgy's character.  He was such a devoted husband and he had this innate love of books that I couldn't help but find endearing.  He was also incredibly devoted to the tsar and his family as a young man and risked his life to try to save them.  I thought the author did a good job of characterizing the tsar and his family; I didn't feel like he tried to vilify them but he also didn't make them look like saints either.  

There was a twist in the story but I have to say it was a pretty predictable one.  It was obvious about half way through that things in the present were not as they seemed which was kind of a bummer.  I am really picky about works of historical fiction that center around the last tsar and his family but I liked the way the author embellished and fictionalized aspects of the end of Imperial Russia.  It was not incredibly unrealistic or ridiculous and I found that kind of refreshing.  I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in Russian history.  3 stars.

1 comment:

  1. I'd like to read this one. Thanks for the review.


Imagination Designs