Guest Review: The Romanov Sisters by Helen Rappaport
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. Rappaport aims to present a new and challenging take on the story, drawing extensively on previously unseen or unpublished letters, diaries and archival sources, as well as private collections.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.
I received a copy of this book, The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra, from NetGalley for an honest review.
I was really looking forward to reading this book when I read that it was about the Romanov sisters. I’ve always been fascinated about the Imperial family and their lives before the Russian Revolution.
This book was not what I expected at all. It was very informative and contained a ton of primary sources, which were interesting to read considering they were from the diaries and letters of not only the Romanov family but also their close friends. By reading this book, my knowledge and understanding of the Romanov family has definitely increased threefold if not more.
However, despite the information about the Romanov family that was provided in the book, I found that it lacked a lot of information regarding the girls. I found that the second half of the book contained more information about the girls and therefore, was more entertaining to read. I understand this may be due to the lack of information about the girls and their lives, since they had to burn some of their diaries and letters near the end.
But, if you’re going to title a book about the girls, then it should be primarily about the girls, not their mother. The title was very misleading. It should have been titled Alexandra and her Daughters, not The Romanov Sisters.
Despite the lack of information about the girls, the book was still very interesting. The book was well-written and gave a reader a sense of the author’s research and the timeline she was trying to create. I say trying because there was at times, mainly at the beginning, a lack of cohesiveness of a chronological timeline. It was very hard to follow.
I did enjoy the book to a certain extent. I did not like being misled into thinking the book was about the Romanov sisters when it really was about their mother, father, and only brother.
I would not recommend this book unless it was to someone who was interested in the history and downfall of the Romanov family.
3.5 out of 5 stars (Because of the lack of information about the sisters and the lack of a cohesive chronological timeline at certain times, I would feel guilty giving this book a higher review)