the romanov sistersReviewed by Jax Kepple

Everyone knows what happened to Tsar Nicholas and his family in a basement in 1918. Author Helen Rappaport sets out in The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra to shed light on the lives of the four spunky and vivacious daughters: Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia. The result of Rappaport’s historical research and story is an engrossing, easy-to-read record of the entire Romanov family just up until they are called to the basement.

Rappaport uses the personal correspondence of the four sisters to establish their personalities, as they often were lumped in together as one unit. Olga, the shy quiet eldest; Tatiana, the proficient go-getter who was looked upon to take care of the family while their mother was often ill; Maria, the middle child who was sweet and kind; and Anastasia, the hilarious youngest who made everyone laugh. Through letters to their many friends, each sister is portrayed as very religious, a little boy crazy, and fiercely proud to be Russian.

Much of these behaviors and personality traits are the result of Nicholas and Alexandra’s decision to bring the children (along with youngest and future heir, Alexey) up in the more modest Victorian way, without all the excess of prior tsars and without being at court. Rappaport spends a lot of the book discussing Nicholas and Alexandra’s backgrounds and childhoods, as well as establishing Alexandra’s neurosis and reasoning for her now-ridiculed decisions, especially those involving Rasputin and nursing in WWI.

While Rasputin is a major character in the Romanovs’ lives, and is blamed for their downfall, what actually happens with him is not elaborated upon in Rappaport’s book. The author also does not explain why Nicholas abdicated for himself and Alexey.

In the introduction, Rappaport explains that she has written another book about what happened when the Romanovs died and that this book would strictly be about their life before exile. However, in her effort to keep both separate, certain pieces of the puzzle were not explained, leading to some questions and underdeveloped areas of a very robust and thorough history. Nonetheless, it is such a fantastic story and Rappaport is able to write it in almost a story-like way. Those poor girls.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Jax is in an accountant at a hedge fund. She resides in NYC with her husband.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Macmillan. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.