I’ve always been interested in the Romanovs and have read a couple of nonfiction books about them. I had never read a book focused specifically on the Grand Duchesses, and Helen Rappaport is a new author to me, so I thought I’d give it a try.
THE COVERAGE: The book begins with the courtship of Nicholas II and Alexandra, with a special emphasis on Alexandra’s background. It then follows through the birth of all the children, discussing their servants and caregivers, special friends, and major milestones. It pretty much ends with the removal to the “House of Special Purpose,” with no details on the execution. (The author says very early on in the book that this will be the case, and says the details are covered in her other book on the subject, The Last Days of the Romanovs: Tragedy at Ekaterinburg.)
The day-to-day of the Romanov family is revealed chiefly from primary sources: letters from Queen Victoria to her granddaughter, Alexandra; letters from the Grand Duchesses to friends and relatives; quotes from interviews of revolution survivors who knew the family intimately; and the surviving diary entries of the entire family. Although the focus is on the sisters, Alexei is discussed throughout, along with his considerable health issues, since they had such an impact on the family’s life. Rasputin and his influences are also discussed, but not in great detail. The last quarter to third of the book discusses the family members’ various roles during WWI.
This is NOT a book on the revolution. There aren’t many specific details about the causes and major players. (Of course, some issues are discussed and referenced; but it is presented more for its effect on the family rather than a focus on the revolution itself.)
MY TWO CENTS: I like that the book references so very many primary sources. This helps the reader see what was really going on in the family. You also get a good view of how Alexandra’s poor health, reclusive nature, and withdrawal from society helped fuel the revolution from early on. These factors also kept her daughters living pretty sheltered lives…even more so than other royals of the period. I will say that it’s a pretty long book, and took me a while to read. The information is good, and the presentation is engaging, but I felt like I could only process so much information at a time. I liked that I didn’t have to read details about their imprisonment at Ipatiev House and execution.
TEACUP RATING: I give the book 3½ to 4 out of 5 teacups. I haven’t decided yet if I will look into Helen Rappaport’s other book on the Romanovs or not…but if I don’t, it’s because of the upsetting nature of the content, not any fault of the author’s. I don’t think I would reread this entire book, but it’s great to have as a reference.
ON SALE DATE: The Romanov Sisters: The Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra will be on sale in hardcover and ebook formats on June 3rd.
Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.