Review: Anastasia, the Last Grand Duchess (Carolyn Meyer)

Read-a-thon review #22

This was a good look at the life of Russian nobility at the beginning of the 20th century. I knew little of the Romanov family beyond the names Tsar Nicholas and Anastasia, so I enjoyed getting to know her sisters and brother through the fictional diary. It might have been nice if the author had ended the entries before the family’s house arrest, but every book can’t have a happy ending and the true story certainly didn’t. (I watched the animated movie the evening after finishing the book so that I could have that happily ever after, silly me.) I definitely appreciated the photographs after the historical notes at the end of the story.

Anastasia is a carefree young duchess, daughter of Nicholas Alexandrovitch Romanov, tsar of all the Russias in 1914. While her father attends to the turbulent affairs of a vast and complex country, Anastasia’s major concerns are how to get out of her detested schoolwork to play in the snow, go ice skating, or have picnics. She wears diamonds and rubies, and every morning her mother tells her which matching outfit she and her three sisters shall wear that day. Slowly a hint of future trouble enters her happy, pampered life. Anastasia’s younger brother, the future tsar, is a hemophiliac–a “bleeder” who cannot stop bleeding if he is cut or bruised. Anastasia begins to learn that all is not well in the outside world, either. Not everyone in Russia worships her father as she does, and the Germans are about to declare war on Russia. Anastasia’s world gradually deteriorates, as reported in her youthful, often playful journal. As Russia entered World War I, hunger and poverty grew among the peasants, and the Romanov ruling family began to lose favor, culminating in their murders – including Anastasia’s – by Bolshevik revolutionaries. This fictionalized diary of the mischievous youngest daughter’s last four years gives a fascinating glimpse into a life of unlimited wealth – and the subsequent downward spiral. Historical notes, family trees, and photographs round out Carolyn Meyer’s compelling contribution to the popular Royal Diaries series.

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