Martha S. (Mentor, OH)
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.
Dona N. (San Rafael, CA)
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.
Rita H. (Centennial, CO)
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.
Judi S. (Lawrenceburg, IN)
Lost Daughters of the Last Tsar
One upon a time there were 4 princesses: Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia But there any resemblance to a traditional fairy tale ends. For these were the daughters of the last Tsar and Tsaritsa of Russia, and the circumstances of their young and tragic end is generally well known. The Romanov Sisters by Helen Rapporport brings them vividly to life and tells the largely unknown story of these young women.who were the Princess Dianas and Kate Middletons of their day, played out against the backdrop of Nicolas' and Alexandra's obsession with a male heir, their mother's religious mania, their baby brother's hemophilia, Rasputin, and oh, yes, the Russian Revolution. This is history that reads like an engrossing novel, and once you have made the acquaintance of the four Romonov sisters, you were never, ever forget them.
Eileen F. (Ridgefield, WA)
The Romanov Sisters was an outstanding narrative of history of Imperial Russia and the Revolution. Rapport's book flowed like a novel. She kept the characters to a minimum. I got to know each sister, Alexey, Alexandria, Nicholas, and Rasputin well. My interest in this book was stimulated by the historical novel "The True Memoirs of Little K" , by Adrienne Sharp
Ruth H. (Brecksville, OH)
Intriguing lives of Russian royalty
I thoroughly enjoyed this intriguing read about the brief but fascinating lives of OTMA (Olga, Tatiana, Marie and Anastasia). Helen Rappaport provides new incite into the lives of these four devoted sisters. Born into royalty and privilege, an accident of birth, they were still able to accept and make the best of their changing circumstances. It was especially gratifying to learn about their kindness, compassion and work ethic as the war plunged their country into darkness and despair. Each step of their journey provided paralyzingly change, yet these young victims learned to just and function in adverse and demoralizing conditions. Their heartbreaking story is an engrossing read.
Kathleen S. (St Louis, MO)
A Sad End To A Tragic Family
Author Helen Rappaport,has done an outstanding job of documenting the lives of Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia Romanov (OTMA). Often seen as a unit (hence the OTMA), the sisters come across with very distinct personalities in this book. This tome was primarily written from their diaries and the personal recollections of survivors so their individuality blossoms in this book. Olga was the most sensitive, Tatiana was the natural leader, Maria had the best nature and Anastasia was the most rambunctious.
Nicholas and Alexandra are very devoted to their children and spend quite a bit of time with them, something unusual among royalty at the time. Tsarevich Alexei, the youngest, is burdened with the family illness, hemophilia, which must be kept hidden from royalty and the common people. That fact starts to bring about the downfall of the Romanov Dynasty as the family becomes more isolated due to his illness and the public sees them as uncaring and out of touch.
I felt sad for the sisters while reading this book as they come across as kind, generous and helpful. I often saw "opportunities" where if someone would have taken some action, their lives could have been saved by escaping when they could. This book is suitable for book clubs, readers of world or Russian history, or the events of WW1.
The book contains a helpful "Glossary of Names" to keep the reader on track with who is whom, including nicknames or pet names.