Book Review: The Romanov Sisters

The Romanov Sisters

Title: The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra
Author: Helen Rappaport
Genre: Biography, cultural, historical non-fiction

What it’s about: The four sisters of the Roman Royal family, dubbed the “Big Pair” (Olga and Tatyana) and the “Little Pair” (Maria and Anastasia) by their mother, were the source of fascination throughout history. The book delves into their personalities and daily lives before, during, and after the first World Wars and more specifically, the Bolshevik revolution. The girls lead a life of isolation from the rest of their counterparts during their lives, thanks to their mother wishing to protect them. Despite being royalty, they lead simple lives, and often mingled with the men who stood guard over them, which was looked down upon by higher society of that time. While the girls were rarely seen in public, they had different personalities.

Olga was the oldest, and as the first daughter, she was largely beloved by the Russian people, but she was also very irresponsible, and often acted girlish. In the time of war, she did take on her duties, but was incapacitated by other maladies, like her mother. Tatyana was the second oldest and she was often the more serious of the two older girls, but during the time of war, she was the one who came through as a nurse out of all of the girls, and took care of not only the soldiers in the hospital, but also Alexey and their mother during captivity. Maria was the third of the girls, and she’s not often explained well in the book, aside from being chubby and often made fun of by the family for that. In the end of the book, it is she who leaves with her parents when they get moved to another, separate location from the girls for a temporary period. She is often described as someone who can be leaned on and is reliable. Anastasia, the youngest, who, for many years, captured public imagination as the “lost princess” was described as the imp of the family. She was mischievous and funny, bringing laughter and joy to the family. She was by far the least studious of the sisters, preferring to pull pranks on her tutors, but despite her mischievousness, it was hard not to like her. During the time in captivity, Anastasia was a ray of sunlight in an otherwise dull world.

My verdict: I’m not one for biographies, autobiographies and non-fiction books, but the Romanov family, and more specifically, Anastasia (because who doesn’t like that cartoon movie about her?) had fascinated me. So when I saw the opportunity to read more about the family, I took the chance.

Honestly, this book broke a lot of my preconceptions about the Romanov family, and my ignorance surrounding them. I long thought that there was limited information on the family, and that no one really knew what was going on in their lives, but this book proved me wrong. It shows that there is information out on this family that is rich in detail, and there are many aspects of their lives that are known. More is known about the older sisters for sure, but you get glimpses of the younger ones as well. All of this information on the sisters and their lives is put together by Hellen Rappaport (the author) based on historical evidence–letters from and to friends and family, journals, first hand accounts from people who served them or knew them. So it’s definitely a work of love.

And it was all so fascinating. I loved every moment of the book, which is a rare thing for me considering I have a hard time with biographies. But I will say that because I find biographies a bit dry and constantly dragging, this book took a lot longer to finish than others of the same length. It was easy to put down and forget about it.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in learning about the Romanov family. Just don’t expect to finish it in a flight to your next destination.

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