Once again, this is a gem of a find at a used book sale. I love historical fiction, and I don't know of anyone who doesn't have some interest in the story of Nicholas and Alexandra.
THE KITCHEN BOY
by Robert Alexander
Chicago, around 1990: An old man writes a letter to his beloved granddaughter, the only child of his only son, now dead. His wife has recently died, and the old man wishes to tell his granddaughter the story of his life and that of her grandmother.
Russia, 1917: Leonka is a 14 year old kitchen boy, one of the few servants to Nicholas and Alexandra after the overthrow of their monarchy. Working in the kitchen, one day he is given a note concealed within a milk bottle's cork, with direction to take it to the Czar. The note, written in French, has been delivered by the nuns who supply fresh milk and eggs to the royal family, and has information about a plot by some loyal officers to aid the Romanovs in escaping; Leonka dutifully delivers it to the Czar's personal physician for transmittal to Nicholas. The story only occurs during the 3 months or so when the Romanovs were in captivity before their execution, and meanders through Leonka's interactions with the family, with the nuns who were delivering the messages, and with the other staff in the house, as well as with the guards. Other details, including Alexandra and the girls stitching their gems into their corsets and even Nicholas' cap, are woven throughout the story, making it feel very real. At times, there is a break from the story, as the old man stops to collect his thoughts and reflect upon what he's trying to do. Of course, we all know how this story ends.
Or do we? There is a twist at the end, involving the body of one of the Duchesses falling off the truck taking them for burial. But is that the truth? We all know that one of the daughters' bodies was not buried with the rest of the family, which leads to the story of the Grand Duchess Anastasia suddenly appearing in Europe some years after the family was executed. This was a very well written book, with a great deal of attention paid to actual historical detail, and enough story woven into it to make it a good page turner. 5/5