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  • The House of Special Purpose

  • By: John Boyne
  • Narrated by: James Wilby
  • Length: 15 hrs and 42 mins
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (92 ratings)

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The House of Special Purpose cover art

The House of Special Purpose

By: John Boyne
Narrated by: James Wilby
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Summary

Brought to you by Penguin.

Russia, 1915: at the age of 16, Georgy Jachmenev steps in front of an assassin's bullet intended for the heart of a senior member of the Russian imperial family. He is instantly proclaimed a hero. Before the week is out, his life as the son of a peasant farmer is changed forever when he is escorted to St Petersburg to take up his new position - as bodyguard to Alexei Romanov, the only son of Tsar Nicholas II. 

Sixty-five years later, visiting his wife, Zoya, as she lies dying in a London hospital, memories of the life they have lived together flood his mind. Their marriage, while tender, has been marked by tragedy, the loss of loved ones and experiences of exile that neither can forget. 

The House of Special Purpose is a novel about a young man ripped from a loving home and thrust into the heart of a dying empire. Privy to the secrets of Nicholas and Alexandra, the machinations of Rasputin and the events which led to the final collapse of the autocracy, Georgy is a witness and participant in a drama which will echo down the century. His is also a story of a marriage in which a husband finds it impossible to live in the present and a wife unable to reconcile herself with the past. 

Part love story, part historical epic, part tragedy, the novel moves from revolutionary St Petersburg to Paris after the First World War, and from London during the Blitz to the eastern coast of Finland during the 1980s, before returning to a quiet hospital bed where Georgy and Zoya's story must finally be resolved.

©2020 John Boyne (P)2020 Penguin Audio

What listeners say about The House of Special Purpose

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  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars

Appalling narration

Had to give up on this....narration appalling....excruciating "Russian" accent completely unnecessary I felt. Ordered the book instead otherwise the story would be ruined for me. Very disappointing.

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2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Loved it

Loved it, best book I've read on a long time. Great story with a bit of history thrown in. If only this was true!

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1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

accent alert

Loved the book. The narrator has a pleasant voice and when he narrates it is awesome. The dialogue however, he does in English with a Russian or French accent, which sucks. The Russian I could get used to, but the French was horrible.

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1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent book, disappointing narration

I loved the book but I was surprised that such an established actor did such a poor job of narration. The accents were a bit cringe throughout (omg has he ever been to France?!) but he also failed to pronounce simple things correctly. Holborn? Scion? And surely a Russian would have no problem with Solidarnosc and Lech Walesa. The book deserved better.

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1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Best book ever!

After finishing this story I could go back and start listening to it all over again.
I thought it was excellent.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Well worth a listen.

Another gripping John Boyne classic. If you love historical fiction this one is for you.
is for you.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Powerful story

This was an amazing story about a time in history, so well put together by a truly gifted author.
The narration added great value to this story, wonderful voices and accent which made the story come alive in so many ways.
It does take some concentration to follow as it travels back and forth in time, however does not take from this wonderful book, so well worth a listen. Highly recommend.

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Not to JB's usual standard

Narrative in English was great, with Russian accent - more difficult to take seriously.

Story seemed a little contrived - I think JB was as pleased as anyone to finish it.

JB can do so much better

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Very poor narration

I love John Boyne books and this one is no exception, he always has a very interesting tale to tell that is gripping throughout. However it was such a mistake to listen to this as an audio book as the narration is appalling - why such a fine actor like James Wilby had to use such ridiculous accents is beyond me, the Russian accent is an absolute parody of a Russian accent, it grated on my ears so much I had to stop listening to this audiobook and rather read it. When he read the narrative without dialogue he was excellent, but those awful Russian and French accents spoiled the book for me.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Brilliant novel and wonderful narration

Unlike others I really enjoyed the narration. An intriguing tale set amidst the Russian revolution. John Boyne cleverly weaves a story of loss and love.
A well deserved 5* and I’d give more if I could!

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