::sigh:: I am not the target audience for this book. Quick review: If you are in the mood to learn lots about pre-revolutionary Russia and the Romanov family, particularly the personal lives of Tsar Nicholas, his wife Alexandra, and their five children and you enjoy immaculately researched historical monographs then this is absolutely the book for you and you should find the time to read it. If, however, you are like me and already know A LOT about the social and political history of modern Russia and the Romanov dynasty and really don’t want to learn anymore about the tsarevitch and Rasputin and are only interested in the four sisters, this is not the book you want.
I wasn’t kidding, this is a beautifully researched monograph and the research is top notch. That all worked for me splendidly. What didn’t work for me is that this book was not actually the bill of goods I was sold. Moving away from the title, here’s part of the blurb from Goodreads, “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.”
And this book does contain those things, and the primary sources are used to bring new insight into these young women who were often kept from public life. BUT… this is perhaps the final third of the book. The first two thirds of the book focus on the life of their mother from birth, her marriage to Nicholas, and the early years of their lives and waiting for the eventual birth of their brother. Interspersed throughout chapters which were intended to be about the sisters were asides to all the other family members and the history going on around them. This was more information than I wanted or needed, but might be just what you are looking for. In fact, other on the discussion page for this book for the Go Fug Yourself book club on Goodreads (we’re voting for our next book now!), many of the other readers loved this level of detail. And you might too.
But for me, not so much. I skimmed A LOT, any time that Rasputin’s name or Alexey, or a mention of Alexandra’s poor health I moved along to the next page. I read very quickly this way. I need to find a shorter work focusing more exclusively on the sisters, particularly Olga and Tatiana who really intrigued me. I welcome any and all suggestions!