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The Kitchen Boy: A Novel of the Last Tsar    by Robert Alexander Amazon.com order for
Kitchen Boy
by Robert Alexander
Order:  USA  Can
Penguin, 2004 (2003)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

The story of the final days of the last Tsar and Tsarina of Russia is told by Leonka, a kitchen boy who worked for the Romanovs at their place of imprisonment. The assassination of the whole family, along with five of their retainers, took place in Siberia during the early days of the Russian Revolution.

What actually happened has been speculated about since that day. Tales of one or two of the royal family surviving have circulated but never been proven. Leonka tells of the stiff upper lips of the imperials who endured not even being able to see daylight, their windows being covered over. The four daughters and their mother spent many hours at their sewing encasing diamonds and other valuable loose jewels in their corsets to help them if they managed to reach another country.

The Romanovs never gave up hope of an escape and even when they were taken to the cellar of what was to be the spot of their executions, they were sure they were to be liberated. Those jewels deflected bullets when they were finally gunned down and the actual killing took longer because of that.

Leonka tapes the record of the deaths to leave for his granddaughter when he dies. He tells of the young Alexander's suffering with hemophilia; of the sweetness of the girls; of the foolishness of the Tsar in his dealings with his people; and of his great regard for the Tsarina.

The Kitchen Boy is a slim novel that packs a great deal of speculation. It's a well-told account based on many copies of communications that are held in display at various museums. Robert Alexander has taken these documented letters and woven a tale around what is still viewed as one of the world's great tragedies. The surprise ending - which will shock and surprise you - answers many questions that the novel raises.

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