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The Romanov Sisters

The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra

By Helen Rappaport

The Romanov Sisters
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  • Hardcover: Jun 2014,
    448 pages.

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Juli S. (Portland, OR) (07/11/14)

More than just the sisters
Although the title indicates the book is primarily about the four Grand Duchesses it's really about the family. Many books focus on Nicholas, Alexandra and their hemophiliac son, Alexei and the strange monk Rasputin. This book almost makes Alexei a background presence but the girls' parents and particularly their mother are very much a part of it.

While venturing into some different territory it's still limited by the limited information about some rather sheltered and isolated young women. It's hard to feel like the girls are truly known any better but it was still an interesting book. I would not necessarily recommend it as an entry into the tragic story of this family but for people like me who are interested in the history of the Romanovs it's an interesting perspective.
Patricia G. (Dyer, IN) (06/18/14)

The Romanov Sisters
Helen Rapport provides a meticulous, superbly researched view into the daily lives of Nicholas and Alexandra . . . and their five children. The contrast between the turmoil and dangers of the outside world and the insolated bubble which was the Tsar's household is astonishing, but remarkably familiar. The children grow before the reader's eyes; they are active, passionate, mischievous. Their mother and father hover over them, protect them, and provide for them what seems like an impossibly "normal" environment in the midst of all of the intrigue surrounding the throne and the "almost" well-kept secret of Alexey's hemophilia.

The final collision of the two worlds is, of course, a tragic, history-changing moment in world politics. But Rappaport always remembers the real people in each moment of this remarkable biography--she never allows any of the family to become abstract symbols or ephemeral ghosts.
Martha S. (Mentor, OH) (06/16/14)

The Romanov Sisters
What a story! Most know this royal family was murdered in Russia in 1918. Helen Rapport's book on the Romanov family intertwines Russian history and the royal family. Yes, the children were brought up in luxurious surroundings but lived simple lives. They were also secluded from the world. This was what I thought was most interesting. The four daughters lead austere lives, focusing on family time, chores, and duty to their parents and country. They were very "innocent" in a society where being active socially was expected. These girls preferred to be with each other but made friends with everyone. Status was not important, although they certainly knew their family status and knew what was expected of them. This is not a summer "beach read" but it will hold your attention.
Melinda W. (Los Angeles, CA) (06/11/14)

A very fine, is slightly dry, history of the Romanov's
I have to admit I had a hard time getting into this book, because it started far before the "Romonav" sisters - it started with the upbringing of their mother (and I accidently thought the prolougue, which was kind of dry was part of the actual book and that took me a little while to get through). However, as the tragic end of the family became evident, their bravery, and humanity, brought life to the book. The book is a great documentary of the factual events surrounding the death (murder really) of the Royal Family and the beginning of the rise of Communism. However, perhaps because the writer was so fixed on accuracy, instead of storytelling, it was not my favorite accounting of the period. However, I did learn a lot that I will not soon forget.
Shirley P. (Colorado Springs, CO) (06/08/14)

The Romanov Sisters
Ever since reading "Nicholas and Alexandria" published in the 1970's, I have been fascinated by the Romanov family and their tragic deaths. It is amazing that Helen Rappaport has been able to write two sagas about this family. This book is well-written and eminently readable, describing a family, lovely and loved young women and the world that surrounded their tragic ends. With the relatively new information that, indeed, all perished at the same time, it is poignant to read of their living and the details that formed their too brief time on this earth. The book excels in informing the reader of the world events, which led to this family's death and the all too momentous events which followed the end of the Romanov's and Russia's history.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
Dona N. (San Rafael, CA) (06/07/14)

Intimate and Haunting: The Romanov Mystique
Having been fascinated by the Romanov family for a very long time I have read many books about them and this period of Russian history. I was very interested to read "The Romanov Sisters" and gain further insight into Olga, Tatiana, Marie, and Anastasia. Helen Rappaport's book is supported by meticulous research and numerous source documents; she recreates the historical period beautifully. While I very much enjoyed the reading experience and being back in this period of history, I am not sure that I learned anything new or revealing about the sisters. Alexandra's family background and role as a mother was particularly interesting and almost overshadowed the sisters' story at times. As well, Alexei and his illness often took center stage and was distracting. While presenting an historical context is necessary to understanding the Romanov family, I would have liked to have seen more personal information and less focus on the country's difficulties. While the diaries and journals were interesting, the excepts from them were redundant and not very diverse. Sadly, I've come to the conclusion that we may never really know much more about this enigmatic family. As the author reports, almost all the personal writings of the family were destroyed as the revolutionaries swept in and took control. The Romanovs perished over 100 years ago in a country that has since been tumultuous and unbalanced and I wonder if our ability to garner any greater insight into the Romanovs is limited. In short, I liked the book very much as another look at the Romanov family. Whether it provided greater insight into the personal lives of the daughters is dubious.
Diane S (06/06/14)

The Romanov sisters
Although much in this book was known to me previously, I did like the way this was presented. The writing is very readable, clear and precise. It focused more on the family, their daily schedules, the people they were in contact with and their individual personalities. History of course invaded the focus, but only when necessary, and how it affected the family and what they thought about what was happening.

I did feel that I received a better understanding of the girls, their individual personalities, their thoughts and hopes for the future. Their first loves or crushes, their schooling and the many people, including Rasputin, who they trusted. I never knew the extent that they were secluded, kept out of the influence of the Russian nobility and I can't help but feel that this did them a huge disservice. They were often thought to be socially awkward, abroad and by their own people. I couldn't help but think that had the two oldest girls been allowed to marry, at least two lives would have been saved.

This book was extensively researched and I very much like that the book did not end of the murder of the Czar and his family but continued on to tell the fate of many of those who had supported the family.
Rita H. (Centennial, CO) (06/02/14)

The Romanov Sisters: Fascinating
I found the Romanov Sisters to be a fascinating, engaging and extremely well- researched (61 pages of footnotes) account of the lives of the four daughters of Tzar Nicolas and Tsaritsa Alexandra. The book begins with the marriage of Nicolas and Alexander and my sympathy was immediately captured by the beautiful Alexandra who was loved so dearly by Nicolas but never really understood by the Russian people. She had the misfortune of giving birth to four daughters before giving birth to a male heir in an age when women were thought responsible for the sex of the child and royal succession in Russia went only to males. This misfortune was multiplied as Alexandra carried the hemophilia gene and passed this on to her son. Of course, this was seen as Alexandra's fault, not the fault of the centuries of incestuous royal in-breeding of European royalty. However, the book really focuses on Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia, the four daughters, and their sheltered, isolated and simple lives in a family that identified itself first as a loving family, secondly, as a royal family. What I, personally, could not escape from the beginning, was an awful emotional sorrow as I knew what would happen to these children before they could reach adulthood. I, also, realized while reading this book that the older girls were actually of an age when they could have been expected to be married and safe from their fate and I found myself very curious as to why this had not occurred.

I believe that my enjoyment of the book was also enhanced by the fact that I have been fortunate enough to visit and walk in the four palaces featured in the book: Livadia in Crimea, Peterhof, the Winter Palace and Tsarskoe Selo (Catherine's Palace). Additionally, my grandmother told me she once saw Nicolas and Alexandra when she was growing up in Russia. These personal factors made it easy for me to identify with the events and people of this book. Overall, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in history, especially, Russian history. My only regret is that since I read an advance copy, it is devoid of the illustrations mentioned in the acknowledgements and, therefore, I shall have to seek a hard copy of the book when published so that I can enjoy these.
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