>> Tuesday, July 8, 2014
The Romanov Sisters by Helen Rappaport
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: 2014
Source: Copy provided by the publisher
The Short Version:
A glimpse into the behind the scenes workings of a restaurant kitchen.A history of the family of the last Tsar of Russia with a focus on the lives of the family.
Why I Read It:
Ever since I read Robert K. Massie’s Nicholas and Alexandra when I was in high school I’ve been a sucker for all things Romanov.
From the publisher
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.
Having read many books about Nicholas II and his family there was a lot of familiar territory covered in this book. There were also some new insights that I enjoyed reading.
Although the title indicates the book is primarily about the four Grand Duchesses it’s really about the family. Many of the books out there focus on Nicholas, Alexandra and their hemophiliac son, Alexei and the strange monk Rasputin. This book almost makes Alexei a background presence but the girls parents are very much a part of this book.
Because they lived such insulated lives there is not a lot of information still available about these young women and their lives. Much of what is known is from memoirs of surviving family members and staff. Complicating the lack of information is the fact that much of the family’s personal papers were intentionally destroyed in the months leading up to their imprisonment and deaths.
Nevertheless this book does take bit of a different perspective on the history of the family. It is primarily about their non-public lives. It reinforces that despite their imperial titles and wealth, they lived simple and in many ways boring lives. Outside political realities and the need for security were a big factor but these were compounded by the secrecy about their younger brother’s medical condition and the efforts to keep it from becoming public.
Although the book does venture into some different territory it’s still limited by the limited information about some rather sheltered and isolated young women. It’s hard to feel like the girls are truly known any better but it was still an interesting book and one that people like me who are interested in the history of the Romanovs would like.
I would not necessarily recommend it as an entry into the tragic story of this family but it's an interesting perspective.