I am a fan of John Boyne’s books for younger readers, and this was the first adult book of his that I had read. I hate to say this, but it was a disappointment. With such a talented author and such an interesting history from which to work, I was expecting more.
This is the tale of Georgy Jachmenev and his life as it was under, with and after the Romanovs. While it is arguable that the characters face their lives with grace, bravery, loyalty and eventually, love, they have little hope and much of their lives revolve around themselves. The romance was less real and more descriptive, sacrificing depth for emotion and passion. I will admit that I found the plot structure was very clever. However, the threads it drew together could have reached a more satisfying and meaningful end. Many points were begun but never fully developed or finished. The ‘revelation’ at the end of the book was predictable. Worst of all, there seemed to be no purpose to their journey.
On the positive side, John Boyne’s language did not fall in quality, and the writing style, while not of his usual caliber, was still above average. Significantly also, Boyne reminds readers that historical figures, even those as infamous as the Romanovs, were human beings with hopes, dreams and beliefs; living and breathing people. In a society that tends to be a little too critical and skeptical of those that came before, this was slightly surprising and refreshing at the same time.
I would not say, however, that this last positive point is enough to make this book worth reading. I am sure there are many better books out there that could achieve the same or better, such as The Empire of Eternity. All in all, I think that Boyne attempted to do too many things at the same time, and the result did not reach this reader’s expectations.
Maryana Garcia is the eldest of four sisters. A student at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, she plans to major in History and is currently an employee at the Mount Albert Community Library.