The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra
by Helen Rappaport
St. Martin’s Press (2014) Hardcover, 512 pages
“They knew it was the end when I was with them”
Helen Rappaport’s The Romanov Sisters is much more than a biography of the four daughters of Tsar Nicholas II; Russian politics, the European Royal bloodline, court intrigue, and Rasputin’s influence on the Imperial family are closely examined as well. The lives of the Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia Romanov are studied from birth to their untimely demise. Helen Rappaport presents an account of their Royal upbringing- what and who they were influenced by, how they influenced Russian politics and daily life, as well as the sheltered existence they experienced under the watchful eyes of their doting parents, The Tsar and Tsarina of Imperial Russia. A good portion of the book looks into the role of Rasputin, particularly his seemingly magical power to heal their only son Alexei, the heir to the throne, during his many bouts with Hemophilia, and Rasputin’s violent death at the hands of relatives of the Romanov family.
I felt as though I knew the family intimately, no doubt due to the wealth of information gleaned from diaries, letters and eye-witness memoirs-it is evident that Alexandra and Nicholas were loving parents, who put family above all else, including politics. As commendable as that may be, it is also evident that this insularity contributed to the family’s downfall.
The first three quarters of the book focus on the Romanov’s family life, including the relationship of Alexandra and her grandmother, Queen Victoria of England, as well as insight into the converging bloodline shared throughout Europe’s Royal families. When I reached the last sections of the book, the deep understanding of the sister’s personalities that I had gained filled me with sorrow, as I felt the fear, and the sense of doom that the family must have experienced in those final moments huddled in the basement before being executed by the Bolsheviks.
The Romanov Sisters offers a vivid account of the last Royal family of Imperial Russia, and the years leading up to the Russian Revolution. The wealth of archival materials, including letters written between the Sisters and their friends, adds a much more personal dimension to their story, allowing us to view it through a different lens. Well written, and meticulously researched, The Romanov Sisters may be the most comprehensive biography of the ill-fated Romanov children to date.
(4 out of 5)