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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

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

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


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. Rappaort aims to present a new and challenging take on the story, drawing extensively on previously unseen or unpublished letters, diaries and archival sources, as well as private collections.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.

Summary & Cover taken from
Length: 512 pages (Hardcover)
Source: Review Copy
Available Formats: Print/E-book/Audio
Publication Date: June 3rd 2014 by St. Martin's Press (first published March 27th 2014)

I've been fascinated with the Romanovs since I was a little girl and watched the kids movie Anastasia. While that tale is widely exaggerated and is pure entertainment, it sparked an interest and I've always been wanting to learn more about the family outside of my World History textbook from high school so when I got the review request from St. Martin's Press how could I say no?

While some non-fiction books about history can be dry, slow moving and ultimately very boring, I'm so glad to say that Helen Rappaport's book about the last of Russia's royal family was not like that at all. I really enjoyed the way that she laid out the information in an easy, accessible way that brought the family to life in a respectful way which to me as a reader is important.

I loved learning more about the royal family. Some of the facts I knew but I found that her close attention to detail and her obvious skill for researching came through. Most of the facts I knew about the Romanov family were about the Tsar and Tsarina and their youngest child and only son the tsarevich Alexei before I read this book so I was happy to read more about the other members of the family. I knew little about the older daughters but in reading this, I feel as though I got a really interesting and in depth picture of not only them but the family unit as a whole which isn't an easy thing considering the family has been dead almost 100 years.

The way that she portrayed them was, as I said very respectful and lacked any of that sensationalism that can sometimes occur especially when it comes to this family in particular. It serves as a reminder that the these young women were flesh and blood. They felt as we feel and it provides an intimate glance into their lives, that is both familiar and unfamiliar. They might have been royals living in a different era and country but as I said they were still young women and certain things are universal and transcend barriers.

I thought that the author's voice was fantastic and the way she pieced all their lives together was very well done and would have no problem recommending this book to anyone with an interest in Russian history especially about the Romanovs. Even if you aren't a non-fiction fan Helen Rappaport puts forth an intriguing and well researched read that is easy to delve into and I for one will definitely be giving Rappaport's other books a try.

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my free and honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are 100% my own.
Loved It!
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  1. I loved the story despite the overtones of sadness. I thought the book was meticulously researched and felt that I was educated completely, on an important part of Russian history, once I finished the book.

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it as well Mystica, like you said it was enjoyable even with the overtone of sadness.

  2. I admit that I've been fascinated by the Romanov's for the same reason you are - and got into them the exact same way! I love that this book focuses on all four of them instead of just Anastasia or more so on the Czar and his wife than the children. I'm definitely going to have to add this to my TBR pile! :)

    Andrea @ Bookish

    1. Yay! Glad I'm not the only one who was introduced to the Romanovs through that movie :) I hope you get a chance to read it soon Andrea, it gives such a unique look into their lives.

  3. OMG this is going on my pile right now. I too am fascinated by the Romanov's Thanks for bringing this to our attention!!!

    1. You're welcome Debbie! I hope you enjoy it when you read it.

  4. I share your fascination with the Romanov sisters. I remember watching Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna miniseries in 1986, and thinking, wow! I want to know more! I don't read a lot of non-fiction these days, but I think this is a book I'd enjoy.

    1. I remember watching that mini series too (though I was older when I saw it) and thought it was good. I hope you give this one a try and like it :)

  5. I've been fascinated with the Romanov's ever since I watched a documentary on looking for their graves back in the 90s. I have this book on my Kindle but have yet to read it. Sounds like I'll have to push it up the list a bit. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Thanks for this review. I've been considering the book, but I was afraid it might be too dry. So glad to know it isn't. Onto the TBR it goes!


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