Published by Books on Tape on March 20th 2018
Buy on Amazon
“Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.” -Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Most people know the story of the execution/assassination of Tsar Nicholas II and the rest of the Romanov family in Elakterinburg, Russia at the hands of the Bolsheviks following the Russian revolution. Most have also heard of the woman (Anna Anderson) who claimed for years to be Anastasia Romanov and that she survived the brutal attack that claimed the lives of her family and servants. This is a clever telling of that story. The question about what whether Anastasia Romanov survived the firing squad in the basement has fascinated people for decades. Lack of DNA testing and location of a grave/burial site helped many who stepped forward to claim that she was the sole survivor. Of course, through the passing of time, DNA testing has been conducted and grave site excavations have given a clear answer.
But as the saying goes…it’s not the destination, it’s the journey. Lawhon takes the reader on a unique journey using two story lines. While reading this book, readers will either enjoy or become annoyed by the storytelling. While Anastasia Romanov’s story is told chronologically, the story of Anna Anderson is told in reverse. In Author’s note, Ariel Lawhon states that the movie “Memento” is a favorite of hers. This style of writing also reminded me of the book “All the missing girls” which was also told in reverse.
I found that I rather enjoyed how she told her story. The storytelling was unique, granted, it did take me a couple of chapters to wrap my head around it. Thankfully, the chapters are labeled with the time you are reading. That is a big help! There is a lot of historical detail in this book. It is evident that the Author did a great deal of research prior to the writing of this book. History buffs may detect that the Author blended several characters into one (i.e. had one character be a blending of 2 real life guards of the Romanov’s) in order to help the reader keep track of events and not be weighed down by too many characters.
It is hard to say too much without giving away spoilers, but this work of historical fiction was very good. I really appreciated how she blended historical facts with fiction. If you do not know the entire family about the Romanov’s family’s fall from grace and the events leading up to their execution, it is laid out for you here.
I highly recommend reading the Author’s note at the end. I think this is essential. She details her research, why she blended characters, her inspiration for the reverse story telling and what lead her to write this book. I was actually deciding between a 3.5 and a 4 star rating, and then I read the Author’s note and that pushed the book to a 4 star rating for me.
I love when books cause me to think, feel and also to learn. I did learn some facts while reading this book and I found I often wanted to put the book down and think about what I had just read. Mainly because things in this book really happened. Sitting and thinking about the horrible treatment of this family (especially the girls) and what they endured -living in constant fear and dread, I can’t even imagine.
Again, interesting story-telling and a compelling read.
Thank you to Doubleday books and NetGalley for providing me with an advanced readers copy of this book.