The House of Special Purpose, John Boyne

ImageWell, I’ve already confessed to being a John Boyne fan and I think that this cements it. I simply loved The House of Special Purpose. I think that what I really appreciated about this book was the Russian context. The book is based on the attempted assassination of a senior member of the Russian Imperial family. A peasant boy steps in front of the bullet and is rewarded with a promotion to the equivalence of the Royal Guard. He becomes close to the Royal family and his role is to guard the young prince who is next in line for the throne. Through the course of the book, which is fiction with hints of fact, the revolution breaks out and the Royal family is forced into exile in a remote part of Russia.

I loved the way that Boyne used the historical context of the Revolution, Rasputin and Anastasia to construct his narrative. This both captivated and intrigued me and kept me wanting more. If my memory of Russian history serves me, then Boyne’s narrative is remarkably accurate and I found myself recalling Rasputin’s vulgarity and control as I read about his relationship with the Tsarina. While I was repulsed by the excessiveness of the Royal family, I also felt incredibly empathy for all they were trying to achieve – and of course, the central motif in the book is the deep love affair between two main characters.

I can’t recommend this author enough. He is truly remarkable.

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