Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra by Helen Rappaport

Star Rating : 3 out of 5
Content Rating : NONE

Back Cover :
They were the Princess Dianas of their day―perhaps the most photographed and talked about young royals of the early twentieth century. The four captivating Russian Grand Duchesses―Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia Romanov―were much admired for their happy dispositions, their looks, the clothes they wore and their privileged lifestyle.

Over the years, the story of the four Romanov sisters and their tragic end in a basement at Ekaterinburg in 1918 has clouded our view of them, leading to a mass of sentimental and idealized hagiography. With this treasure trove of diaries and letters from the grand duchesses to their friends and family, we learn that they were intelligent, sensitive and perceptive witnesses to the dark turmoil within their immediate family and the ominous approach of the Russian Revolution, the nightmare that would sweep their world away, and them along with it.

The Romanov Sisters sets out to capture the joy as well as the insecurities and poignancy of those young lives against the backdrop of the dying days of late Imperial Russia, World War I and the Russian Revolution. Helen Rappaport aims to present a new and challenging take on the story, drawing extensively on previously unseen or unpublished letters, diaries and archival sources, as well as private collections. It is a book that will surprise people, even aficionados.”
My Thoughts :
I’ve not read anything previously about the Romanovs; but, thought this would be an interesting place to start. Like many girls my age, I saw the Disney movie Anastasia; and well, Disney lied to us. The story of the Romanovs is a bit like a twisted fairytale. They wanted nothing more than to have a quiet family life and tried their best to achieve just that. Unfortunately, the Russian society was much steeped in superstition; and, the striving to a quiet life lead to a distrust from among people.

I gave this a rating of NONE. The Romanov’s did meet a very violent end; however, Rappaport hands this off screen. She does not go into any details as this is a book about the life of the Romanov’s and not their deaths.

What I liked :
  • The Daily Life – The book focuses on the family, their daily schedules, the people they interacted with, and the things they enjoyed doing. Much of the material in the book comes from letters and diaries. This allows a more intimate glimpse into what it was really like to be in the Romanov family.
  • Alexandra – I think part of why we are given so much information on Alexandra, the wife and mom, is because her attitudes and desires very much drove how the family behaved and lived for better or worse. Her story starts for us before she marries the Czar. Rappaport tries to show what made Alexandra into Czarina of Russia that the people so mistrusted.

What I didn’t like :
  • The Title and Back Cover – Nothing is wrong with them by themselves; but, they do not accurately describe the book. It’s almost a bait and switch. It’s presented as a book about the lives of the four Romanov sisters; however, much of the book focuses on other members of the family. Almost the whole first third of the book is details about their mother, Alexandra. While I did enjoy reading about Alexandra’s marriage and such, it’s not what I feel was advertised. The book itself is probably more of a 4 star; however, for the book as described I gave it 3 stars.
  • The Middle – I enjoyed the beginning of the book. I found Alexandra’s story very interesting. I also liked the end, not in a morbid way, but in a curiosity way. Though not as much detail was given for the end as I wanted. I later found out the author did this on purpose because she had a previous book that went into all the details. However, the middle got a little repetitive and long for me. I felt much of this could have been summarized a bit better. 

What Others Are Saying :
"Helen Rappaport paints a compelling portrait of the doomed grand duchesses." ―People magazine

"The public spoke of the sisters in a gentile, superficial manner, but Rappaport captures sections of letters and diary entries to showcase the sisters' thoughtfulness and intelligence." ―Publishers Weekly

“The haunting cover photograph of the Romanov sisters will draw readers, and the extensive bibliography will aid those who want to learn more.” ―Booklist

Reviewed by Shayna Hinshaw

Pick up your copy at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

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