Thursday, 13 February 2014

The House of Special Purpose by John Boyne

Georgy Jachmenev is the sixteen year old son of a peasant farmer in a small village in Russia.  In 1915, a senior member of the Romanov family is passing through the village and Georgy single handedly prevents an assassination attempt.

This single act changes the course of Georgy’s life forever as he is hailed a hero and taken to St. Petersburg to work as a bodyguard to Alexei Romanov, the only son and heir of Tsar Nicholas II.  He becomes privy to all that occurs in the Winter Palace and comes face to face with the secrets of the household.

Aged eighty Georgy lives in London with his beloved wife, Zoya, who lies ill in a London hospital. He is now a retired librarian struggling to come to terms with the illness of his wife. They both are haunted by their memories of so long ago and repercussions of the fate of the Romanov household remain with them still.

The narrative of this novel alternates between the past and the present and it was this collusion between times that kept me completely enthralled by this book until the two finally meet at the end.   It is part love story, part tragedy and part historical fiction and these three elements came together seamlessly in this book.

It is a fairly quick read whilst having lots of content.  John Boyne has obviously done his research thoroughly giving the book enough detail that enabled me to almost feel that I was part of the Romanov court myself. He is an excellent writer who has the ability to make his readers feel part of the narrative. Further more, he always appears to write with such ease. I am certain that much blood, sweat and tears went into writing this novel but when a writer can pull off work of this quality which reads so easily this establishes them as an excellent author and skilled storyteller in my opinion.

I loved the character of Georgy, both as a young and an old man . He is completely endearing and I liked being able to follow him from his youth right through to his later years and to see how his character developed.  The author clearly gets right under the skin of his characters and makes them utterly believable.

I like John Boyne’s novels very much. I have previously read The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and Stay Where You Are and Then Leave and I intend to read more of his work.

Coincidentally, I read a novel centred around the Romanovs at the end of last year; Last Romanov by Dora Levy Mossanen so I can not help but compare a little. Both novels approach the subject in completely different ways; Mossannen's version has a much more mystical thread running through it whereas this is much more romantic. Both are well worth reading.

ISBN:   978 0552775410

Publisher:  Black Swan

Price (based on today’s price at  £5.59
I have had this book on my shelf for a long time.

Total saving so far:   £185.48

No comments:

Post a Comment