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All about The Romanov Sisters...and parents and brother.

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

I've read several books about the Romanovs over the years. This one is purportedly a biography of OTMA (Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia), daughters of the last tsar of Russia, but it ended up dealing more with the family as a whole. The narrative is straightforward and there are copious quotes from letters and diaries, but the sisters never felt fully fleshed out. It seemed as though the author was pulling her punches at times, and sometimes just failing to connect the dots. For example, she presents quotes from people who saw Anastasia as the family clown, delightfully charming, and those from others who thought she was obnoxious and ill behaved. There's very little connective tissue to tie the quotes together and bring Anastasia's personality to life. 

 

In the prologue, the author says she's already written a book about the Romanovs' deaths in Siberia and doesn't want to cover that ground again, so the execution is glossed over. I think that's understandable, but it seemed like she was really disinterested in everything the family went through once they were in exile. I've read other books that talked about Maria being considered boy crazy by the other grand duchesses and getting into trouble with her family for flirting with the guards when they were in Siberia. There's even a story that one of the guards brought her a birthday cake and Maria was later caught with him in a "compromising position." There is no word of this in the book--does the author have reason to believe it didn't happen? Why wouldn't you mention that, if that were the case? I think the best biographies put things into context for the reader. Given that the girls were living through turbulent times and factions on every side were prone to spreading rumors to support their own agendas, I think she does the reader a disservice by not presenting some of what has been said over the years and dismantling the falsehoods. Instead the last third of the book consists of letter after letter in which the grand duchesses write to their friends about how bored they are. Unfortunately, it's also quite boring to read. 

 

I would recommend this as a good introduction to the Romanov family, but there's not much here to interest anyone who's familiar with their story. And readers who are hoping to have the grand duchesses come alive on the page will likely be disappointed.