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The Last Grand Duchess

A Novel of Olga Romanov, Imperial Russia, and Revolution

by Bryn Turnbull

The Last Grand Duchess by Bryn Turnbull X
The Last Grand Duchess by Bryn Turnbull
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    Feb 2022, 384 pages


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Gretchen M. (Martinsburg, WV)

A Good Read for fans of Romanov history
This story focuses on the family life of the Romanovs. The author reveals the deep love and devotion the tsar Nicholas II had for his family and how he held onto his dignity and theirs to the very end. It was interesting to see how the author intertwined the events of history with the Olga's growth as a young woman who came to understand that the people of Russia were suffering immensely as she and her siblings lived a sheltered existence in a fairytale built by her parents who believed, and never questioned, in the divine nature of their reign. The book led me to look up several places, events and people referenced in order to learn more about the Romanov dynasty and Russia. I found the first half to be slow and I had to put it down more than I would have liked but found the second half more intriguing. It was refreshing to read historical fiction centered on Olga, as many books are written about Anastasia. Although she was thought to be less mature than women of her age due to the seclusion imposed upon her and her sisters by her mother in order to hide the illness of her younger brother from the world, Olga proved to be a strong and perceptive character.
Valerie C. (Chico, CA)

I found this book informative of the end of the Romanov dynasty. I did not, however, find it engaging. Slow paced, you are not in for an engaging thriller.
Wendy P. (Jourdanton, TX)

Great for Russia history buffs
It took a little while for me to get into this book because I am only peripherally aware of the history and the going back and forth in time was slightly confusing. Once I got into the story though I appreciated how the author gave depth to a historical figure and the events surrounding her life. Also really liked the author notes which gave a little background on artistic license taken in the story.
Helene M. (Sarasota, FL)

History Made Personal
Bryn Turnbull does a very good job in making the broad sweep of a very major historical period - The Russian Revolution - accessible by making it the story of the Imperial Romanov Family, as seen through the eyes of the eldest Romanov daughter, The Grand Duchess, Olga. Through that focus, the reader is able to absorb the scope of change that took place in Russia from the early 1900's to the final day of the monarchy in July, 1918. The story moves back and forth between 1913, 1918 and the years in between, providing glimpses of life in the various Romanov palaces, the country house at Tsarkoe Selo, and then throughout their exile. At first I found the shifting time frames a bit off-putting, but the technique helped to contextualize much of the drama that was Russia in the early 1900's and 19teens. It also provides an opportunity to introduce many of the other characters who influenced Olga and strengthened her resolve live as The Last Grand Duchess. It enables the reader to see Olga as she matures from a dreamy romantic girl to a woman who meets the demands of a life of sacrifice to a greater cause and to her family.

The Romanov family had ruled Russia for three hundred years at the time of the revolution. Even though Tsar Nicholas and Tsarina Alexandra thought of themselves as humble, devout people, I was struck by the opulence of their lives, especially in contrast to the lives of their subjects. The entire family (and the Empire) was impacted by the hemophilia of the Tsarevich, Alexi, because it was that illness that brought Fr. Grigori Rasputin into their lives. While Turnbull makes no judgments on the good or evil done by Rasputin, there is little doubt that he wielded a huge influence on decisions made, especially while the Tsarina "stood in" for the Tsar while he was at the battlefront.

I think the book accomplished a great deal that one always hopes historical fiction will - that is, to make one want to learn more about the reality of the period it covers. I certainly felt challenged to review what I knew of the Russian Revolution, the Romanov's, Rasputin, Lenin, Trotsky and the beginnings of communism in Russia and beyond. Kudos to Bryn Turnbull for a job well done, and in the words of one of her characters, allowing us to witness "the true cost of war ... the price paid by the gallant...by the loyal."
Esther L. (Newtown, PA)

The Last Grand Duchess
With thanks to BookBrowse for the opportunity to read and review this book.I also read and enjoyed her first book,The Woman Before Wallis.

"From glittering palaces to field hospitals, privilege to prison life" the book tells the story of the downfall of the Romanov dynasty and their deaths in their last place of refuge, Ekaterinburg in 1918. The book was well researched and an interesting look into their lives. In the author's notes, Ms Turnbull says that she chose only to focus on Nicolas II as a father and didn't mention the atrocities committed during his reign. "The Romanov dynasty and Nicholas II were active participants in the oppression of the peasant class, not only through the lingering after effects of serfdom (abolished in 1860), but also their appalling treatment of Russian Jews." Violent pogroms were common throughout Russia, killing many, burning down houses of worship and forcing many to flee. All of my grandparents were lucky to be able to emigrate to America in the early 1900s.

I recommend this book!
Darra W. (Mendocino, CA)

Good ... but not "Grand"
"The Last Grand Duchess" is a serviceable, if uninspired retelling of the fall of the Romanov dynasty as seen though the eyes of Olga, the eldest of the Tsar's five children. I found the characters rather thinly drawn, and the frequent, alternating timelines distracting, but in the end, these shortcomings led me to further research ... always a plus! The reference list of characters, select bibliography, and informative Author's Notes were welcome additions, and the "twist" at the story's end a pleasant surprise.
Miriam B. (Lakewood Ranch, FL)

The Last Grand Duchess
I really wanted to like/love this book but could not get into it. I love the cover and was excited to read about Olga Romanov and the fall of the Tsar and the Russian revolution. I did not care for the back and forth telling of the story and just did not care about any of the characters. I usually love historical fiction but this was not for me.
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Beyond the Book:
  Olga Romanov

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