I love history; absolutely love it. While I adore fantasy and science fiction books, I do quite enjoy reading nonfiction because I get to learn about areas in history that fascinate me. One such area is that of the Romanov family.
And I will honestly say that is completely because of the Anastasia movie (one of my absolute favorite princess movies).
When I was a kid, I instantly went to learn more about Anastasia and her family after watching the film, and was heartbroken to learn what really happened. My mom and I talked about it quite a bit, and I found myself often wishing that the truth of what happened was actually what happens in the movie.
It is far easier to handle such a tragedy if some evil baddie sells his soul to dark spirits, right?
Instead, I learned that humanity can be its own biggest threat. After learning a bit about what happened to the family, I began to research more.
Fast-forward to now, and I finally bought a book that highlights more about the family than their deaths.
For those who don’t know, the Romanov family was the last imperial family of Russia before the Bolsheviks took over and Lenin came into power (soon followed by Stalin). Their lives were fraught with tragedy from the beginning with Alexandra and Nikolay getting married right before Nikolay’s father passed away.
[A note on the spelling of names: I am following how the author spelled each name in the book, and she has a portion at the beginning that discusses her chosen spelling.]
Imperial Russia was definitely focused on the male line of a family, so when the new Empress, German-born Alexandra, became pregnant all hopes were on whether or not she would have a son.
We learn about how all of her pregnancies were hard physically and emotionally. She gave birth to her first child, a baby girl named Olga. She and Nikolay were beyond happy while Russia and the rest of the family were a bit dejected.
This happened three more times with Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia being brought into the world. While the Emperor and Empress were both a bit sad with the birth of, so far, all girls, they were always over the moon and absolutely in love with their daughters.
When Alexandra had her fifth child, all of Russia could finally celebrate because she had a son – Alexey.
However, the family had a shock when they realized that Alexey had a very disastrous disease; one that ran in Alexandra’s family: hemophilia. They worked really hard to keep this from the public and succeeded for several years.
Throughout this whole time, we learn about the sisters and what their lives were like. They weren’t spoiled, their parents had them dress in simple clothes, and Alexandra was too worried to let them out into society.
They stayed home, played games, read, wrote letters, and worked around the palace. As things progressed, we see how they approached different situations throughout their lives including their mother’s illnesses, helping Alexey, their friendship with Rasputin, and how they handled World War I in Russia.
We also see how they handled life once the Russian Revolution began and saw the fear they faced bravely each and every day.
If you know anything about the Romanov family, you know how their story ends. For those who don’t, in the end, the Bolshevik party ordered their execution, which was carried out in a basement room.
I was quite interested to see how this book played out. I was glad to see that the focus of this particular book was on the lives of the daughters, not their deaths. While the politics and history that surrounds that is something we should know, I think people focus too heavily on it.
These girls were regular girls for their time. It was interesting to see just how “normal” they were, since their lives have been surrounded by such scandal and eventual tragedy. The scandal I refer to is who their mother unwittingly brought into the Russian court.
Let me just say, this wasn’t scandalous in the least, but the Russian people at the time believed so.
I did find parts of the book a little disjointed, but it all comes down to the availability of documents that survived. People had to smuggle out letters and such after the Romanovs’ murder.
The Soviet government would not allow people to keep such documents, and, in fact, killed several people who had connections to the family. (Thankfully some of those people were able to escape Russia.)
I was so intrigued by their lives that I forgot for a brief moment how it ended, so as I approached the end of the book, I found myself feeling incredibly sad. To realize that an entire family was murdered because they posed a “threat” to the new government – tragic.
She doesn’t detail their deaths in this book, which I think is good. She also has a book that does focus on the time right before and after their deaths, called The Last Days of the Romanovs.
If you’re a nonfiction fan, then I do recommend this book.
Do you know much about the Romanovs? What parts of history are you interested in?