Review: "The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra" by Helen Rappaport

I have tried and failed to Anna Karenina at least four times. So I didn’t think that I was going to be able to make it through this book about the last ruling family of Russia. Much to my surprise, I didn’t just trudge through this book. I actually enjoyed it.

The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra
Image courtesy of Goodreads.com

In The Romanov Sisters Helen Rappaport tells the story of the four daughters of Tsar Nicholas II, the last tsar of Russia. Largely forgotten by history, Olga, Tatianna, Maria, and Anastasia get their chance to shine in this informative biography. Rappaport utilizes the extensive and detailed dairies of the girls and their parents to piece together the lives that the Imperial sisters lead as they grew up in a tumultuous timeperiod. She covers the events leading up to their birth, their life before World War I, during the war, and during their captivity. With meticulous accuracy the author is careful to leave no part of their lives unrecorded.

“History may have condemned him many times over for being a weak and reactionary tsar, but he was, without doubt, the most exemplary of royal fathers” 
 

The book actually focuses more on the older sisters, Olga and Tatianna, rather than the better known Anastasia, about whom so many movies have been made. In addition to recording the lives of the girls, Rappaport also follows the lives of their parents. We learn how Nicholas and Alexandra chose to raise their children and how the pressures of ruling Russia influenced those decisions.

“People seemed surprised that the four sisters enjoyed ‘only the healthy pleasures of ordinary children’.” 
 
With history obsessed with the Romanov family, it is refreshing to find a book that relies entirely on actual historical documents. My only criticism, is that the story of Maria, the middle Romanov sister, is lost under the narrative of the two older girls. This could be because Maria did not keep records in the same manner as her sisters. Whatever the reason, Rappaport never explains the virtual omission of Maria from the family narrative.
Bottom Line: This book is an interesting, informative read that relies almost entirely on historical fact. Rapport omits the conjecture often present in books of this type, and delivers a thing of beauty.
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