A novel discussion

The Kitchen Boy is a novel that has captured the imagination of generations. Its blend of excitement, psychology, intrigue and historical accuracy has wowed readers across the globe, all eager to put their own interpretation into the pages of a story that’s as plausible as it is engaging.

Author Robert Alexander visits Books & Books in Camana Bay on Thursday, 27 January at 7pm for a discussion and signing of the bestselling novel about the final days of the last Russian tsar, Nicholas II, and his family. Since the publication of The Kitchen Boy – his fiction debut – Alexander has made a massive impact in his subsequent works.

“I’ve tried to write each of my historical novels as if I were an eyewitness. What that means is that you have to read every personal account, every historical tome, and every diary that you can. Once you have absorbed it all, you have to throw out 98 per cent of what you’ve learned and only gingerly and carefully salt and pepper in the remaining 2 per cent.

“Too much research, of course, can ruin a storyline dead in its tracks, while too little leaves the story flat and unbelievable. Also, you have to stay within the boundaries or buoys of reality, which is to say you can stretch the truth somewhat, but if you push it too far the whole thing will snap,” muses the award-winning author.

Symbolism of eggs

The novel is nearing its 30th printing, and is in development to be made into a movie, a process that the American writer says has been fascinating. Other novels followed; Rasputin’s Daughter and The Romanov Bride. Alexander’s interest in Russia began when he picked up a copy of Nicholas

and Alexandra by Robert Massie. He subsequently learned Russian and studied and worked in the Soviet Union.

Talking with the readers, adds Alexander, is always very enjoyable, and with such a wide cross-section of readers there come some occasionally surprising interpretations of the work.

“About a month ago I was speaking to a large group and someone started going on and on about the symbolism of eggs in the book. Quite frankly, it was something that had never occurred to me. Eggs? Really, the only reason there is even mention of a single egg in The Kitchen Boy is because Alexandra recorded every time the nuns brought them eggs… and then the assassins took a mass of them to eat as they secretly buried the Imperial Family,” chuckles the writer.

Priceless sand

He’s also very much looking forward to visiting the Cayman Islands and, as with many people, finds that the environment very conducive to a writing state of mind.

“I do some of my best, most creative thinking when walking, particularly along the edge of a body of water, so to me your beach is priceless, really the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. We spend months up here in Minnesota dressed like down pillows, so I can’t wait to walk barefoot in and out of the water, swim, and of course your diving is spectacular.”

Those who plan to attend this special event are encouraged to read The Kitchen Boy in advance and come prepared to share their insights and impressions in a group discussion. The discussion will be led by the author who will also give a visual presentation of seldom seen photographs and diary entries from the Romanovs.

For more information, a book club guide, and to view a number of historical photos, please visit Robert Alexander’s website: www.robertalexanderbooks.com