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

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 Rappaort aims to present a new and challenging take on the story, drawing extensively on previously unseen or unpublished letters, diaries and archival sources, as well as private collections.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

Review: Who has never heard of the Romanovs? I think this is not possible. It is true that while younger, it was an image of Disney and especially of the Princess Anastasia who is much represented. We all dreamed of a princess who could come back after the revolution, the beautiful castle of St. Petersburg and finally something that is not really real. I’ve always been intrigued by this family, the details that no one knows, but it’s true that this is the first book I read and it was fascinating to learn the life of Alexandra starting from her mother until her last moments.

As I said we discover Alice and her daughter Alexandra and her marriage to the heir to the Russian throne. I was very surprised but from the beginning, the life of the Tsarina was not easy. First of all her physical frailty almost prevented her from marrying the man she loved (yes, a love match!). And from there to there, everything gets complicated … The people expected of them a male heir and the birth of four daughters has not helped to give them a good image. Considered cursed by people, including Alexandra as she remains present for her daughters as much as possible, many rumors are spreading about them. And when finally the Tsarina gives birth to a child, he has hemophilia, a very difficult disease to manage, especially when Alexey gets hurt.

I was very surprised to see so many difficulties in their lives, to understand that these children were so adored and hated, to discover their missives, and to understand that they were always alone with no other child to play with. Of course, we have Grigory, it is more difficult to decide about him although I am curious to learn more!

The author refused to speculate about the end of the Romanovs and we do not know exactly the final moments of the family but the story is based on the original writings (and we have also a very large bibliography at the end of the novel) and I found it fascinating to learn more. A nice discovery!

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