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The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra
     

The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra

4.2 35
by Helen Rappaport
 

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A 12-WEEK NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

"Helen Rappaport paints a compelling portrait of the doomed grand duchesses." People magazine

"The public spoke of the sisters in a gentile, superficial manner, but Rappaport captures sections of letters and diary entries to showcase the sisters' thoughtfulness and intelligence."

Overview

A 12-WEEK NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

"Helen Rappaport paints a compelling portrait of the doomed grand duchesses." People magazine

"The public spoke of the sisters in a gentile, superficial manner, but Rappaport captures sections of letters and diary entries to showcase the sisters' thoughtfulness and intelligence." Publishers Weekly (starred review)

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Last Days of the Romanovs and Caught in the Revolution, The Romanov Sisters reveals the untold stories of the four daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra.

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 Helen Rappaport aims to present a new and challenging take on the story, drawing extensively on previously unseen or unpublished letters, diaries and archival sources, as well as private collections.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

Editorial Reviews

Olga, Tatiana, Mari, and Anastasia: The four daughters of Czar Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra all died with their parents and their younger brother in July 1918, shot and stabbed by Bolshevik assassins. The oldest was only 22; the youngest, just 17; but even their brief lives and untimely deaths had made them legendary; so mythic in fact, that later more than a dozen women claimed that they were Romanov daughters who had somehow miraculously escaped execution. In this revelatory book, biographer Helen Rappaport uses letters, diaries, interviews, and other documents to uncover the real stories of these strangely fated young royals. Editor's recommendation.

Publishers Weekly
★ 02/24/2014
The lives of the four daughters—Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia—of Nicholas and Alexandra, Tzar and Tzarina of Imperial Russia, have been both sentimentalized and overlooked in the years since the Russian Revolution. Nonetheless, the politics of the court were such that they affected all members of the royal family, particularly through WWI and the Russian Revolution, which claimed the lives of the Romanovs. Rappaport (Magnificent Obsession), a specialist on Russian and 19th-century women’s history, works chronologically—a necessary step in understanding court intricacies and the major players involved—beginning with Alice, Princess of Hesse and daughter of Queen Victoria of England, whose own daughter, Alix, was to become the Empress of Russia. Rappaport details the difficulties leading up to the marriage of Alexandra to then tsarevich Nicholas, the birth of their children, and how the Romanov sisters blossomed into charming, capable, and affectionate young ladies. The public spoke of the sisters in a gentile, superficial manner, but Rappaport captures sections of letters and diary entries to showcase the sisters’ thoughtfulness and intelligence. Readers will be swept up in the author’s leisurely yet informative narrative as she sheds new light on the lives of the four daughters. B&w photo insert. Agent: Caroline Michel, Peters Fraser & Dunlop (U.K.). (June)
From the Publisher

“Rappaport paints a compelling portrait of Tatiana, Olga, Maria and Anastasia” —People

“A gossipy, revealing story of the doomed Russian family's fairy tale life told by an expert in the field.” —Kirkus Reviews

“In their time, Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia were depicted in international accounts as a cute, indistinguishable quartet. But Rappaport brings out each one's character and does it neatly, with a fine touch. . . . While we know that the family's fate will be tragic, the girls don't, and Rappaport, with a light hand and admiring eyes, allows the four Grand Duchesses to grow on us as they grow up.” —Christian Science Monitor

“Rappaport is good at showing life within the castle gates… [she] makes a genuinely new, interesting contribution to the Romanov story, which is likely to appeal to both general and specialist readers.” —Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“In this new volume Helen Rappaport mines a trove of fresh material as she uncovers the lost lives of the daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra.” —Buffalo News

“The public spoke of the sisters in a gentile, superficial manner, but Rappaport captures sections of letters and diary entries to showcase the sisters' thoughtfulness and intelligence. Readers will be swept up in the author's leisurely yet informative narrative as she sheds new light on the lives of the four daughters.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“The haunting cover photograph of the Romanov sisters will draw readers, and the extensive bibliography will aid those who want to learn more.” —Booklist

“As shocking and immediate as a thriller... [A] gripping read.” —People magazine (3 ½ stars) on The Last Days of the Romanovs

“Rappaport offers an absorbing, perceptive, and detailed picture of a constitutional monarchy in crisis.” —Publishers Weekly on A Magnificent Obsession

“An absorbing account of the making of a queen through her awful, protracted grief.” —Kirkus Reviews on A Magnificent Obsession

“Quite simply, stunning. . . . Chilling and poignant, this is how history books should be written.” —Alison Weir, author of Henry VIII: The King and His Court on The Last Days of the Romanovs

“A fluid and astute writer, Rappaport delivers a historically discerning portrait of Victoria in the 1860s.” —Booklist on A Magnificent Obsession

Kirkus Reviews
2014-04-17
The daughters of Czar Nicholas II and Alexandra are just the right subjects for Rappaport's (A Magnificent Obsession: Victoria, Albert, and the Death That Changed the British Monarchy, 2012, etc.) specialties in Russian and 19th-century women's history.This story of the four girls—Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia—is not just a standard Russian history; witness the passing references to the Russo-Japanese War of 1904 and 1905 and the revolution of 1905. The author's goal is to expose the characters of these girls, brought up very much in their mother's vision of a simple, sheltered life. Rappaport manages to maintain reader interest even as she ticks off the repetitious tale of their boring lives: long walks with their father, sewing, study, tennis and heavy doses of religion. Each year, the family would leave the palace for vacations aboard the Shtandart, the imperial yacht, in the Baltic Sea or the Crimea, where they would pretty much do the same things. A visit to their English cousins on the Isle of Wight illustrated how little social freedom they actually had. Assassination was a way of life in Russia, and the Romanovs' security network was so strict that the family members were restricted from leaving the ship. Their social lives were nonexistent, and their playmates were the sailors on the yacht or members of the czar's guard. Alexandra's weak constitution initially created the family's isolation, which the populace saw as snobbery from the German-born czarina. Add the inept autocrat, Nicholas, the hemophilia of Czarevitch Alexei and the presence of the despised Rasputin for Alexandra's obsessive protection, and the monarchy was ripe for a fall.A gossipy, revealing story of the doomed Russian family's fairy tale life told by an expert in the field.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781250020215
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
06/03/2014
Sold by:
Macmillan
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
512
Sales rank:
29,666
File size:
4 MB

Read an Excerpt

The Romanov Sisters


By Helen Rappaport

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2014 Helen Rappaport
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-250-02021-5



CHAPTER 1

MOTHER LOVE


There once were four sisters – Victoria, Ella, Irene and Alix – who lived in an obscure grand duchy in south-western Germany, a place of winding cobbled streets and dark forests made legendary in the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm. In their day, these four princesses of the house of Hesse and by Rhine were considered by many to be 'the flowers of Queen Victoria's flock of granddaughters', celebrated for their beauty, intelligence and charm. As they grew up they became the object of intense scrutiny on that most fraught of international stages – the royal marriage market of Europe. Despite their lack of large dowries or vast territories, each sister in turn married well. But it was to the youngest and most beautiful of the four that fate dealt the biggest hand.

The four Hesse sisters were daughters of Princess Alice – second daughter of Queen Victoria – and her husband Prince Louis, heir to the Grand Duke of Hesse. In July 1862, aged only eighteen, Alice had left England heavily veiled and in mourning for her recently deceased father Prince Albert, after marrying Louis at Osborne House. By the dynastic standards of the day it was a modest match for a daughter of Queen Victoria, but one that added another strand to the complex web of royal intermarriage between European first and second cousins. During her long reign Victoria had orchestrated the marriages of all her nine children, and remained meddlesome enough into old age to ensure that, after them, their children and even their grandchildren secured partners befitting their royal status. Princess Alice might well have achieved something better had she not fallen in love with the rather dull Prince Louis. As royal domains went, Hesse was relatively small, perpetually financially overstretched and politically powerless. 'There are English noblemen who could endow their daughter with a richer dower than falls to the lot of the Princess Alice', observed one newspaper at the time. Hesse Darmstadt was a 'simple country, of pastoral and agricultural character', with an unostentatious court. It was pretty but its history till now had remained unremarkable.

The capital, Darmstadt, set in the oak-forested hills of the Odenwald, was deemed 'a place of no importance' in the eyes of the pre-eminent Baedeker tourist guide. Indeed, another contemporary traveller found it 'the dullest town in Germany', a place 'on the way to everywhere' – nothing more. It was built on a uniform plan of long, straight streets and formal houses populated by 'well-fed burghers and contented hausfraus', not far from the River Darmbach, and 'the general absence of life' in the capital gave it 'an air of somber inactivity'. The older, medieval quarter had a degree of bustle and character, but aside from the grand-ducal palace, the opera house and a public museum full of fossils there was little to redeem the city from the insipid stiffness that permeated the Darmstadt court.

Princess Alice had been dismayed upon her own arrival there, for although her upbringing had been authoritarian it had been liberal, thanks to her father Prince Albert. For him, Alice was 'the beauty of the family', and she had grown up happy and full of fun. Her wedding day had, however, been totally overshadowed by her father's premature death and her mother's crippling state of grief. The brightness of an all too brief childhood was soon further dimmed by painful separation from her beloved siblings, particularly her brother Bertie, all of which heightened her deeply felt sense of loss. There was an air of sorrow about the princess that nothing would ever quite assuage.

Her new life at Hesse promised to be undistinguished. The old order that persisted there kept clever, forward-thinking women such as herself down. Virtue and quiet domesticity were all that counted, and Alice found the hidebound protocols at the Hessian court burdensome. From the outset, she suffered the frustrations of not being able to exercise her own considerable progressive and intellectual gifts. An admirer of Florence Nightingale, Alice would have liked to take up nursing, having more than demonstrated her skills during her father's final illness in 1861. If this was not to be then there were other ways in which she was determined to make herself of use in her new home.

With this in mind she embraced a range of philanthropic activities, including regular hospital visiting and the promotion of women's health, fostering the establishment of the Heidenreich Home for Pregnant Women in 1864. During the wars of 1866 against Prussia and 1870–1 against France that stirred Darmstadt from obscurity and took her husband off on campaign, Alice refused any suggestion of taking refuge in England and took on the mothering of her children alone. But this was not enough for her crusading social conscience; during both wars she also organized hospital nursing of the wounded and founded the Frauenverein (Ladies' Union) for the training of women nurses. 'Life', Alice resolutely told her mother in 1866, 'is meant for work, and not for pleasure.' The duty that had ruled her father's life had become the watchword of her own.

Alice produced seven children in rapid succession with the same kind of stoicism with which her mother had given birth to her own nine. But there the similarities ended; unlike Queen Victoria, Princess Alice was a practical, hands-on mother who took an interest in every aspect of her children's daily lives, down to managing the nursery accounts herself. And, like her elder sister Vicky – and much to Queen Victoria's 'insurmountable disgust for the process' – Alice insisted on breastfeeding several of her babies, causing the queen to name one of her prize cows at Windsor after her. Alice also studied human anatomy and childcare, in preparation for the inevitability of nursing her own brood through childhood illnesses. There seemed to be no limits to her devotion as a mother, but she did not spoil her children; she allowed them only a shilling a week pocket money until their confirmation, after which it was doubled. She was an advocate of frugality, much like Queen Victoria, though in Alice's case economizing was often out of brutal necessity. The house of Hesse was far from wealthy and Alice often knew the 'pinch of poverty'. But at the Neues Palais, built during 1864–6 with money from her dowry, she created a warm home-from-home, furnished with chintz fabrics and unremarkable pieces sent from England and cluttered with family portraits and photographs.

Born on 6 June 1872, Princess Alix – the sixth child of the family and future Empress of Russia – was a pretty, smiling, dimpled girl who loved to play. They called her Sunny and from the start her grandmother looked upon her as a golden child. Alicky was 'too beautiful ... the handsomest child I ever saw', thought Queen Victoria, and she made no attempt to disguise her favouritism. Although Princess Alice was much more closely involved in her children's upbringing than many royal mothers, her various welfare and charity projects consumed a lot of her time, and her children's day-to-day life was organized by their English head nurse Mrs Orchard.

Victorian values reigned in the plainly furnished Darmstadt nursery: duty, goodness, modesty, hygiene and sobriety, accompanied by generous amounts of plain food, fresh air (whatever the weather), long walks and pony rides. When she had time Alice walked with her children, talked with them, taught them to paint, dressed their dolls and sang and played the piano with them – even when little fingers, as she laughingly complained, 'thrust themselves under hers on the keyboard to make music like big people'. She taught her daughters to be self-sufficient and did not believe in spoiling them; their toys were unostentatious and brought from Osborne and Windsor. Moments of idleness for the Hesse girls were always filled by something their mother deemed useful – cake-making, knitting, or some kind of handicraft or needlework. They made their own beds and tidied their rooms and there was of course always regular, obligatory letter-writing to Liebe Grossmama and annual visits to her at Balmoral, Windsor or Osborne. Other, more frugal family seaside holidays – of donkey rides, paddling, shrimping and sandcastles – were spent at Blankenberge on the treeless, wind-swept North Sea coast of Belgium; or at Schloss Kranichstein, a seventeenth-century hunting lodge on the edge of the Odenwald.

When it came to her children's religious and moral development Princess Alice took a very personal hand and inspired high ideals in them, her greatest wish being that they 'should take nothing but recollections of love and happiness from their home into the battle of life'. Life's battle included being taught to appreciate the sufferings of the sick and poor, visiting hospitals with armfuls of flowers every Saturday and at Christmas. But Alice's own life was increasingly one of chronic pain – from headaches, rheumatism and neuralgia, as well as overwhelming exhaustion brought on by her commitment to so many worthy causes. The last child of the family, May, was born two years after Alix in 1874, but by then the happy childhood idyll at Darmstadt was over.

Gloom had irrevocably settled over the family, when at the age of two Alice's second son Frittie had, in 1872, shown the first unmistakable signs of haemophilia; his godfather, Queen Victoria's fourth son Leopold, also was blighted by the disease. Barely a year later, in May 1873, the bright and engaging little boy, on whom Alice had absolutely doted, died of internal bleeding after falling 20 feet (6 m) from a window. Alice's consuming morbidity thereafter – a species of douleur so clearly in tune with that of her widowed mother – meant that a mournful dwelling on the dead, and on the trials and tribulations rather than the pleasures of life, became part of the fabric of the young lives of the surviving siblings. 'May we all follow in a way as peaceful, and with so little struggle and pain, and leave an image of as much love and brightness behind', Alice told her mother after Frittie died.

The loss of one of her 'pretty pair' of boys opened up a four-year gap between the only other son, Ernie – who also was forever haunted by Frittie's death – and his next sibling Alix. With her three older sisters growing up and inevitably distancing themselves from her, Alix instinctively gravitated to her younger sister May and they became devoted playmates. With time, Princess Alice took solace in her 'two little girlies'. They were 'so sweet, so dear, merry, and nice. I don't know which is dearest,' she told Queen Victoria, 'they are both so captivating.' Alix and May were indeed a consolation, but the light had gone from Alice's eyes with Frittie's death and her health was collapsing. At a time when she and her husband were also becoming sadly estranged, Alice retreated into a state of settled melancholy and physical exhaustion. 'I am good for next to nothing,' she told her mother, 'I live on my sofa and see no one.' The accession of Prince Louis to the throne of Hesse in 1877 and her own promotion to grand duchess brought only despair at the additional duties that would be placed upon her: 'Too much is demanded of me,' she told her mother, 'and I have to do with so many things. It is more than my strength can stand in the long run.' Only Alice's faith and her devotion to her precious children was keeping her going but her air of fatalistic resignation cast a shadow over her impressionable daughter Alix.

In November 1878 an epidemic of diphtheria descended upon the Hesse children; first Victoria, then Alix fell sick, followed by all the others bar Ella, and then their father too. Alice nursed each of them in turn with absolute devotion; but even her best nursing skills could not save little May, who died on 16 November. By the time she saw May's little coffin taken off for burial Alice was in a state of collapse. For the next two weeks she struggled to keep the news of May's death from the other children, but a kiss of consolation for Ernie on telling him the news may well have been enough for the disease to be transmitted to Alice herself. Just as her children were recovering Alice succumbed and she died on 14 December, at the age of thirty-five, achieving the longed-for Wiedersehen with her precious Frittie.

The trauma for the six-year-old Alix of seeing both her mother and her beloved little playmate May taken from her within days of each other was profound. Her treasured childhood tokens were taken from her too – her toys, books and games all destroyed for fear of lingering infection. Ernie was the closest to her in age but now under the separate control of tutors as heir to the throne, and she felt her isolation acutely. Her eldest sister Victoria recalled happier times to their grandmother: 'It sometimes seems as if it were only yesterday that we were all romping about with May in Mama's room after tea – & now we are big girls & even Alix is serious & sensible & the house is often very quiet.'

It would be Grandmama, the solid and reassuring Mrs Orchard – known to Alix as Orchie – and her governess Madgie (Miss Jackson) who would fill the terrible void of her mother's death, but the little girl's sense of abandonment ran very deep. Her sunny disposition began to fade into an increasing moroseness and introspection, laying the foundations of a mistrust of strangers that became ever more deeply ingrained as the years went by. Queen Victoria was anxious to act as a surrogate mother, for Alix had always been one of her favourite granddaughters. Annual visits to England by Alix and her siblings, especially to Balmoral in the autumn, had consoled Victoria in her own lonely widowhood, and such regular proximity allowed her to supervise Alix's education, her tutors in Hesse sending her monthly reports on her progress. Alix herself seemed content to play the role of the 'very loving, dutiful and grateful Child', as she so often signed her letters to the queen, and she never forgot a birthday or an anniversary, sending numerous gifts of her own exquisite embroidery and handiwork. After her mother's death England became a second home to her.


* * *

During her lifetime, Princess Alice had had strong feelings about the future for her daughters; she wanted to do more than educate them to be wives. 'Life is also meaningful without being married', she had once told her mother, and marrying merely for the sake of it was, in her view, 'one of the greatest mistakes a woman can make'. As she grew into a teenager, the best that the beautiful but poor Princess Alix of Hesse could have hoped for to relieve her from the unchallenging tedium of Darmstadt provincialism was marriage to a minor European princeling. But everything changed when on her first visit to Russia in 1884 (for the marriage of her sister Ella to Grand Duke Sergey Alexandrovich), Alix's third cousin, Nicholas Alexandrovich, heir to the Russian throne, had taken a shine to her. He was sixteen and she was only twelve, but thereafter Nicky, as she would always call him, remained besotted. Five years later, when Grand Duke Louis took Alix back to Russia on a six-week visit, Nicky was still stubbornly determined to win her as his wife. The shy schoolgirl had become a slender, ethereally beautiful young woman and Nicky was deeply in love. But by now – 1889 – Alix had been confirmed in the Lutheran faith prior to coming out, and she made clear to Nicky that despite her deep feelings for him, marriage was out of the question. Virtue prevailed. She could not and would not change her religion, but she did agree to write to him in secret, their letters being sent via Ella as intermediary.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Romanov Sisters by Helen Rappaport. Copyright © 2014 Helen Rappaport. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet 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.


Helen Rappaport studied Russian at Leeds University and is a specialist in Russian and Victorian history. Her books include Caught in the Revolution: Petrograd, Russia, 1917 - A World on the Edge, A Magnificent Obsession: Victoria, Albert, and the Death That Changed the British Monarchy and The Last Days of the Romanovs. She lives in West Dorset.

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The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 35 reviews.
Feathered_Quill1 More than 1 year ago
Rappaport begins her book with a look into Tsaritsa Alexandra before she became “Empress of all the Russias.” As Princess Alix of Hesse, granddaughter of Queen Victoria, she led a privileged life. However, after the death of her mother, brother and little sister, young Alix retreated into the safety of family and valued it above all else. In adulthood, this desire to retreat behind closed doors with her family would come back again and again for Alix, and lead the Russian people to misjudge her and her actions. After falling in love with, and marrying, Nicholas Romanov, Alix [now Alexandra], found herself thrown into a culture, and tradition, she didn’t understand. What she did know was family, and that is where she threw herself, heart and soul. Bearing four daughters, and then finally, to the relief of all, a son, Alexandra relished the role of mother. Her preference, however, to stay behind palace doors with her children, combined with health issues that kept her from traveling or, indeed, being seen out of the palace, led to much negative speculation on the part of the Russian people. While The Romanov Sisters provides much information on Alexandra, Nicholas, and their son Alexey, it provides an astounding amount of detail into the personal lives of Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia. Exhaustively researched, the author uses letters, diary entries, official documents, and photos, to bring these four girls to life. Rappaport tells a mesmerizing story, as she meticulous introduces the reader to these four charming girls, with their likes, dislikes, teenage crushes, schooling, volunteerism during the War, and the various activities that kept them busy. Many events/people surrounding the Tsar and his family are seen through the eyes of his four daughters. For example, Alexandra's embracing of the infamous Rasputin is carefully examined. While not wise, her devotion to this faith healer is certainly more understandable in the context of the story Rappaport tells, particularly in relation to the Tsaritsa's hemophiliac son. This is where most history books stop, but Rappaport continues and dives into how the daughters felt about their mother’s advisor, his powers, and his death, which are clearly seen through the letters they left. While all readers will know how this tale ends before reading the first page, The Romanov Sisters is not about that fateful day at the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg. It is about the vivacious young ladies who grew up as the daughters of Tsar Nicholas. With a degree in Russian Studies, I have read a lot of books about the Romanovs and the last days of Imperial Russia. I have not, however, read a book that so grabbed me and kept me reading late into the night. Poignant, insightful, well written, The Romanov Sisters should be required reading for anybody studying the history of Russia. Quill says: This book brings to life the Romanov sisters, and the rest of their family, like no other I’ve read. If you’re interested in Russian history, do NOT miss this book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Just got this book on Saturday, and read the ENTIRE book that same day (only stopping for dinner!). By way of background, I've loved Russia - and the Romanovs - since 1972 (after seeing the film "Nicholas & Alexandra"), self-taught myself Russian & Soviet history, and THEN got my college degree in Soviet/Russian studies (but didn't do anything with it!). I would give this book TEN stars (if that grading system was available). It made me laugh, cry, think and re-examine everything that I had read in the past. Hellen Rappaport has done an incredible thing with this book - giving each of these beautiful young women a "voice" and an "identity" - something that they never had before now. Before "The Romanov Sisters," these four young women were always "OTMA" - just a blank slate of paper-mache cut-outs (the closest anyone came was Pierre Gilliard's description of them and that was almost 100 years ago!). After finishing "The Romanov Sisters," I'd highly recommend that fans (and new readers) read "Tragedy at Ekaterinburg." God bless Helen Rappaport for her dedication to all things Romanov (and Russian)! The Romanov Sisters" will allow future generation to love this family in a new way and will allow their "memories to be eternal!"
lovelybookshelf More than 1 year ago
This book really did surprise me. What struck me most is how vividly Helen Rappaport portrays the Romanovs: not only the four sisters, but their parents as well. In many ways this family was surprisingly normal, which also made them unconventional for their class. Alexandra completely broke protocol and followed her instincts, breastfeeding her own children, taking a hands-on approach in raising them, decorating her own household, cherishing as much family time (and privacy) as possible. The family was so loving and close, their days often so typical, at times I almost forgot I was reading about royalty. Rappaport already wrote about The Last Days of the Romanovs, so The Romanov Sisters doesn't focus on that. I think that the weakness of this book (that is, its attention to their unusually monotonous and fairly normal lives) is also its strength. It makes what happens to the the family feel all the more horrific, if that's even possible. Here, they are no longer intangible, abstract figures in a history book; they are people. This type of historical non-fiction can easily become dry and dull, but for me, those moments were few and far between. This title is incredibly well-researched, yet for the most part, its copious quotes, notes, and citations manage to stay out of the way of the narrative. Helen Rappaport's The Romanov Sisters is probably the most compelling book about the Romanov monarchy that I've read. 4 1/2 stars. I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the book but I found the parts about the sisters’ early years a little bit slow.    I learned allot about Alexandra which I did not know; both that she was close to Queen Victoria, she had a lot of health problems and was somewhat eccentric. I found the story of the princesses sad.   To me they were the poor little rich girls.  They led very restrictive lives because of worries about their security.   They were in some ways overshadowed by their little brother Alexey.    Their mother was sick a lot of the time and not available to them.  The sisters did not go to school or have a normal social life. The story about their end of life was tragic and I wondered if more could have been done to take them out of the country. I am waiting for a biography of the last Tsar, Nicholas II where his two sides (nice family man and political despot) are reconciled. When I visit Russian supermarkets in the states, I will see a lot of products with Nicholas and Alexey pictures which make me think there is some nostalgia for the Tsar in the Russian community.
vikingkim More than 1 year ago
I've read a lot on the Romanovs, and this book was a good read. Yet I think the two oldest daughters were covered quite well, leaving the two youngest trailing quite a bit. A lot of diaries were burned and letters lost in the years of their arrest, and the younger two weren't old enough to have left as much behind, perhaps, but there were tantalizing stories that were passed over. An example: a special barrier was built for swimming at the beach as Anastasia had nearly drowned and Tsar Nicholas had saved her. A story like that needs more, not a brief mention. Even in death, the younger two are mixed up. Russia says the sister buried with Alexei is Marie yet other investigators say it is Anastasia. I did learn a lot about the proposed royal matches for the older two, and it reminded me of royals today in media coverage. The reality of their social isolation contrasted with this media fascination with them reminded me of royals today who seek to lead a private life but who are judged by how many appearances they make. Overall, a good read.
royal80 More than 1 year ago
As a non-fiction book, it is hard to put down, even though you know the outcome. It is a good adjunct to the history of the decline of Russian aristocracy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
KrittersRamblings More than 1 year ago
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings The Romanov family may be one of the most famous families in history, but I always wondered if all the stories I had heard about them were anywhere near the truth. I was intrigued by this book when I received the pitch and was excited to see a bibliography that was many many pages knowing that this author sought out the truth to write her book. With a few stories in a history class and a Disney movie, I knew that the little "facts" that I had from their history could be a little off. I knew of Rasputin and knew of the finale, but didn't know how Rasputin was involved in the downfall of their family.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved learning about this family and this turbulent season of Russian history. Highly recommend this beautifully written biography.
Bosshog More than 1 year ago
Simply a great book. 
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CMKmom More than 1 year ago
This is an excellent book. I enjoyed it very much. It is written almost as if it were a novel, but all historically documented. I would highly recommend this book to anyone. Enjoy!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well researched book. Perfect for anyone interested in history and/or biographies.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Katey2 More than 1 year ago
I thought the story was Ok but it the research is from ladies magazines and not proper archive material and the new letters by Anastasia appear to be fakes as they make little sense against some other well known sources. It is not impressive and looks like it was done in a hurry.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
RKL More than 1 year ago
The Romanov Sisters is a wonderful book. Unlike this year's other big Romanov release, The Diary of Olga Romanov, you really feel you know the subject much better. Helen Rappaport has done remarkably thorough research, hunting down long out of print memoirs, sifting through correspondences of relatives, friends, acquaintances far and wide, and even Bolshevik guards. The result is, for the first time, a clear picture of each girl's personality; it's also a moving portrayal of people trying to be decent and humane at a terrifying, violent time. Cannot recommend it highly enough!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I give The Romanov Sisters FOUR STARS. It is a very interesting book. The writing is smooth and easy to follow. The research is top notch. I definitely recommend this book.