The surefire way to guarantee that I will buy a book: have it be about the Romanovs. I’m completely obsessed, and am always looking for additions to the shelf that I have dedicated to them (non-fiction, fiction, conspiracy theories, etc). So when I saw this on the Costco book table, it went into my cart with no second thought.
The story of the Romanovs is well-known – in 1918 Lenin orders the Imperial family to be executed by firing squad, including the children. The official report claims that none survived and the bodies were buried in a forest. But initially not all of the bodies of the children were recovered, leading to theories that Anastasia Romanov, the youngest daughter, survived.
Many women came forward claiming to be Anastasia, but none were as convincing as Anna Anderson, who was pulled out of a canal in Berlin in 1920 and was convincing enough to fool people close to the family. Today we know that Anna was indeed an imposter, and eventually the real Anastasia’s body was discovered in the forest, but at the time, Anna’s claim rocked the world, dividing the aristocratic world into those who supported her and those who didn’t.
In this book, Lawhon dives deeper into Anna & Anastasia’s stories, breathing life into the narrative so that it reads as a novel.
I LOVE this subject matter, and that is what kept me going with this book, but I HATED the way it was laid out. She starts by telling Anastasia’s story from childhood moving forward chronologically. In alternating chapters, however, she tells Anna’s story starting with the end of her life, moving backwards. Both stories are moving in opposite directions, eventually meeting at the climactic moment of the family massacre. I understand the reasoning, in that the climax of the story happens in the middle, so laying it out like this allows for it to happen at the end of the book… but honestly, I just found it frustrating and confusing – particularly the moving-backwards-Anna-storyline.
It will live on the shelf with other Romanov-inspired books… but won’t make it to the re-read pile.