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The House of Special Purpose
by John Boyne

Release Date: 7th May 2009
Publisher: Doubleday
ISBN: 978 0 3856 1606 5
RRP: £14.99

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Latest novel from this superb author...

One takes up a John Boyne novel fully expecting something immaculate in its conception, beautiful in its architecture and predictable in its exposition of traumatic moments in humanity’s history with a kind of sublime charm and erudite self-deprecation.

To read The House of Special Purpose is to travail through the arduous and seditious period of Russian history: that of the Revolution, but also to extricate oneself into the cerebral wanderings of one Georgy Daniilovich Jachmenev. Georgy was initially born into poverty in some godforsaken village in the backwaters of the Duchy of Moscovy, where he was the only son of a somewhat brusque royalist and the brother of three sisters. His destiny, so it would seem, was to draw him away from this lowly backdrop and vault him into the exalted presence of the Tsar and his family in St Petersburg.

At any other moment in history perhaps, this is where Georgy’s story would have ended – yes, with some wonderment in the consideration of Lady Luck’s great fortune – but nonetheless, a monochrome existence, perpetually debased in servitude. Destiny or Lady Luck had no intention of letting Georgy rest on his laurels however, for this was the time leading up to that most sinister and horrific of times that was to irreparably alter Russia. Not least is the surprising love affair that is struck up between teenage Georgy and the Grand Duchess Anastasia; perhaps no more unusual than the inclusion of Father Gregory – Rasputin – and the manner of his ultimate demise.

The House of Special Purpose is almost tributary to this Georgy; an abbreviated account of his entire lifespan, including all those special and meaningful moments as well as some of those of lesser significance, but of no less import due to their very intimate nature. Boyne makes it easy for us all to believe that had we been in Georgy’s place, we would have acted with no less impudence or devotion; for his central character is so full of life’s mini hypocrisies and inexplicable actions or inactions, that it is almost impossible to not think of him as a real person rather than a fictitious creation that exists only inside the pages of a book. This is truly exquisite work, humbling, emotive and hiding an undercurrent of bubbling excitement and expectation. It cannot be recommended highly enough.


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