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Summary

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

What members say

Average customer ratings

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  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Fantastic content and narration

Fantastic if you have even the slightest interest in Russian history. Yes, the narrator speaks quickly but it's well over 24 hours long, there's so much content he has to! So much interesting detail, never boring, and I've learned so much. I love this audio book and would thoroughly recommend.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Alistair
  • KIRKWALL, United Kingdom
  • 09-04-16

A very interesting story told poorly

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

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.

What other book might you compare The Romanovs: 1613-1918 to, and why?

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.

If this book were a film would you go see it?

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.

16 of 18 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Russia understood?

Easy listen to a very complex story. Beautifully told, I might have found it a challenge to read, but on this format, splendid.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

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.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

just an executive summary of an amazing period

What made the experience of listening to The Romanovs: 1613-1918 the most enjoyable?

the subject is amazing. How could people endure this sytem so long.

What did you like best about this story?

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.

Did the narration match the pace of the story?

more than matched, went too quicly for such a story

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Disgust

Any additional comments?

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.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Long, complex but ultimately rewarding

Long listen but covers vast swathes of history with a myriad of characters which can at times be difficult to follow. However it's worth keeping at it as there are some fascinating insights into Russian and global history, beyond the caricature and myth which was hitherto my only notion of the of the Romanovs.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Mr
  • 30-04-16

A great story - a great tale - an apalling telling

If you could sum up The Romanovs: 1613-1918 in three words, what would they be?

History, Tragedy and Epic

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Romanovs: 1613-1918?

The opening juxtaposition of the end and the start of the Romanov rule

Who might you have cast as narrator instead of Simon Russell Beale?

Anyone who has energy. The languid, overtly reverential tone is appalling. Martin Jarvis, Robert Glennister, anyone other than SRB. I would never ever download another book narrated by him. Totally ruined a great piece of writing and an epic biography with his languid detached style.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No - with this narrator couldn't even get through it - so read it instead.

Any additional comments?

Hate to be so negative about what is a good book - just so undercut by the narrator.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

Disappointing in form and narration

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

As it stands it is simply a litany of dates, atrocities and unmemorable Russian names

Would you ever listen to anything by Simon Sebag Montefiore again?

no

How did the narrator detract from the book?

He spoke far too quickly and indistinctly, making it very difficult to follow

What character would you cut from The Romanovs: 1613-1918?

Among the thousands? And not any of the Romanovs, surely.

11 of 14 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Not really overwhelmed

Would you try another book written by Simon Sebag Montefiore or narrated by Simon Russell Beale?

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.

What do you think the narrator could have done better?

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

Any additional comments?

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.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

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.

9 of 12 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Mikael
  • 06-12-17

Great book.

Very fascinating story and good performance overall. Could have been a little less about the last tsars.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Joseph
  • 20-08-17

informative history of the Tsars

good narration. kept me interested till the end. highly recommend this book to anyone interested in Russian history

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Martin Grobler
  • 30-06-17

Definitely not a waste of my time

You have to be interested in the history to enjoy this book as the story can get a bit long winded at times.

I however thoroughly enjoyed it. The writer brought various sources of information together to create a seamless story that flows together. Well done!

I leave having learnt significantly about Russian culture and the history of governance behind it as well as the individuals that shaped it.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Jorge
  • 21-06-17

Thorough, interesting and well narrated

The Romanovs is a thorough description of ancient and modern Russia through the eyes of autocracy. Very well narrated.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Andrew
  • 07-12-16

Pretty good

As a Russian I enjoyed this side look to the events of our history. However, there were some small differences with the version I (and all other in my country) know from Russian historians. Still very much worth it though.