My fascination with Russia and Russian literature has been well established, so it’s no surprise that my latest book is a biography of the last imperial family, in particular the often-shafted Romanov sisters. The Romanov Sisters by Helen Rappaport gets five stars on my scale of nonfiction historical works. There’s a lot of lore and mystery around the Romanov’s, especially Anastasia. I hate to be the bearer of sad news but she didn’t survive the Bolshevik massacre. The fake Disney movie lied to us.
For those of you who slept through World History, here’s the rundown. It’s the late 19th and early 20th century and Tzar Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra are ruling Russia. Alexandra is generally disliked by the Russian population for being a German outsider and not very friendly. She also gives birth to four daughters before a son so for a while people are pretty pissed. When her son Alexei is born, he has hemophilia, a disease that will likely kill him by 13.
In a desperate attempt to save him the two rulers consult the creepiest human on earth, a mystic named Rasputin. Just LOOK at that. Ew. He seems to have some kind of control over Alexei’s illness and becomes a great pal to the family. Unfortunately Nicholas starts going to him for political advice. Nicholas was kind of a crappy ruler before this and the Russian people get really mad when they find out an unwashed sex addict is telling him what to do. From this anger comes the Russian revolution and the Romanovs are executed by the Bolsheviks in a basement. You just can’t make this stuff up.
The story itself is a nail biter but Helen does an excellent job telling it as well. It really reads almost like fiction. It is a fairly long book though, for those of you who aren’t dedicated to the Russian past. Although it moves quickly, it’s a commitment. That being said if you’re interested in the historical content it’s a must-read. On top of being extensively researched, the novel shines light on the four sisters that were so often looked over in favor the their brother, the heir.
Photos are mine.