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Summary

Russia, 1915: At the age of 16, Georgy Jachmenev steps in front of an assassin's bullet intended for a senior member of the Russian Imperial Family and is instantly proclaimed a hero. Before the week is out, his life as the son of a peasant farmer is changed forever when he is escorted to St Petersburg to take up his new position - as bodyguard to Alexei Romanov, the only son of Tsar Nicholas II.

Sixty-Five years later, visiting his wife Zoya as she lies dying in a London hospital, memories of the life they have lived together flood his mind. Their marriage, while tender, has been marked by tragedy, the loss of loved ones and experiences of exile that neither can forget.

©2009 John Boyne (P)2009 Isis Publishing Ltd

Critic reviews

"Absorbing and richly satisfying." ( The Times)
Boyne's novel... is a work that chimes perfectly with our times. ( Irish Times)

What members say

Average customer ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Russian history spliced with romantic fantasy

The book switches back and forth in time through the voice of 82 year old Georgy who in 1981 looks back on his life as his wife, Zoya, lies dying from cancer in a London hospital. Real events in Russian history are mixed with a romantic fantasy following the life of a boy from a village in Russia who, through a quirk of fate becomes a companion to the Romanov heir to the Russian throne.

The story does jump about a lot between the time around the 1917 Russian Revolution, Paris in the 1920s, the second World war and post war London. Mostly I thought the time-shifts detracted from the power of the story but late into the book there is a surprise revelation that made me realise why the author had used this narrative device.

Generally I enjoyed the book but there are some very slow passages with long dialogues between characters delivered in a breathy and ponderous style.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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awful, hackneyed .. had to stop reading :(

‘The Heart’s Invisible Furies’ remains one of my most treasured reads ever, ‘momentous. Ive no idea how the same writer could produce this..
Bit by bit in the earliest chapters a creeping suspicion develops - ‘He’s not going to go *there* is he, surely not..? He does & it’s a lazy, hackneyed plot. Im disappointed. After T.H.I.F Id envisaged collecting all of his & being diverted / thrilled to bits. I wouldnt however, risk another after this. Narrator’s perfectly ok - if you enjoy your treacle earnest..

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Simply amazing

The story is great and this book is one of the few books you can enjoy over and over again

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Evocative novel of love and loss

I don't think John Boyne is capable of writing a novel that doesn't stay with you for ever. This is no exception. It's a slow burner but I just loved the way it gently weaves an epic story of a very special couple around historical events. The narrator has a beautiful voice but I was slightly destabilized by the use of different voices for the same central character but took this to signify the different stages of his life. The use of regional accents from the UK in Russian characters was an interesting dramatic tool too. Another Boyne that I was sad to finish.

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A sad and heartwarming tale

A well narrated evocative story of old Russia. I was captivated by this beautiful love story weaving back and forth through the young mans life. I found it quite moving

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Loved this book

I really loved this book, a really compelling story which gripped me to the end.

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entertaining

the crux of the book is a little unbelievable perhaps, but a good story with interesting historical information.

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Pronunciation tzar Nicholas etc

Wonderful if only the Russian pronunciation of names were accurate. I do not need English spoken with heavy pseudo Russian accent is the names are incorrectly pronounced. Anastasia in English is Ana STA sia. But in Russian it is Anansta SEE a. It grated on my ear every time rest good

1 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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Disappointing

I was so looking forward to listening to this book as John Boone is one of my favourite authors but I was left bitterly disappointed and it so infuriated me that I didnt even finish the book, an extremely rare occurrence for me. The book is set in a period of history, the last years of the reign of the Romanov’s in Russia. It is a period with which I am very familiar. My disappointment centres around the implication that one of the Tsar’s four daughters enters into a sexual relationship with the hero of the book, the son of a peasant farmer, Georgy Jachmenev.

While I appreciate that this is fiction not fact, the whole idea that this could occur was so beyond the realm of probability, that it ruined the book. It will not put me off reading other books by John Boyne as he remains one of my favourite writers but I shall try and put this book well and truly behind me.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Disappointing

First time I have not enjoyed an audio book - disappointed with story and narration.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful