Thursday, June 12, 2014

History Corner: The Romanov Sisters by Helen Rappaport

Disclosure / Disclaimer: I received this book, free of charge, from St Martin's Press, for review purposes on this blog. No other compensation, monetary or in kind, has been received or implied for this post. Nor was I told how to post about it





I've always had a fondness for Tsarist Russian history. Maybe it was because my mother originally wanted to name me Anastasia. Or maybe it's just the tragic history catches my Southern Gothic soul!


The Romanov Sisters cover

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 Helen Rappaport aims to present a new and challenging take on the story, drawing extensively on previously unseen or unpublished letters, diaries and archival sources, as well as private collections.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


The Romanov Sisters 1906


Review
I have read probably every resource book available on this part of Russian history and this 500 page tome is an excellent addition to your history book shelf. This book probably has the most information on the sisters that has ever been presented in one book (which is logical, per the title!).  It is pretty interesting how much to me that the 4 girls lives seem to mirror the lives of the current English royals in many ways- educated, willingness to volunteer to help others,  not living extravagantly. But yet, when we think of them, we think of the excesses of the Russian Tsarist era. This book helps us to understand them as what they were- young women who were ready to move on with their lives- to accept marriage offers and become wives and mothers. The book shows how much of their lives were overshadowed by their brother's illness, and their parents attempts to hide it from their subjects. History tells us what happens to these wonderful girls, and it is sad to realize how if their parents had allowed, Olga and Tatiana to marry, they might have survived and not been slayed at Yekaterinburg. How much would history have been changed? This books gives the reader such a wonderful look into the family, that one has to wonder at what was lost. I would urge anyone interested in this part of Russian history to check out this book! It is definitely one to add to your history resource shelf!




The Romanov Sisters 1914


About the Author:
Helen Rappaport studied Russian at Leeds University and is a specialist in Russian and nineteenth-century women’s history. She lives in Oxford. Check out her website for more info

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