ABOUT THE BOOK:
Germany, February 17, 1920 A young woman bearing an uncanny resemblance to Anastasia Romanov is pulled shivering and senseless from a canal in Berlin. Refusing to explain her presence in the freezing water, she is taken to the hospital where an examination reveals that her body is riddled with countless, horrific scars. When she finally does speak, this frightened, mysterious woman claims to be the Russian Grand Duchess Anastasia.
Her detractors, convinced that the young woman is only after the immense Romanov fortune, insist on calling her by a different name: Anna Anderson.
As rumors begin to circulate through European society that the youngest Romanov daughter has survived the massacre, old enemies and new threats are awakened.
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I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I am Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon is a 2018 Doubleday publication.
No matter how many movies, documentaries, or books I’ve watched or read, the romantic in me simply can’t resist the fascination and the mystery of Anastasia Romanov. This book examines the life of Anna Anderson, who claimed she was Anastasia, while also chronicling the period of time the Romanov’s were in exile, leading up to their execution during the Bolshevik Revolution.
Anna’s claims captured our imaginations for decades and sparked many debates over the legitimacy of her pronouncement. While she was often met with skepticism, she also had many staunch supporters.
I, for one, always loved the notion surrounding this legend. I hoped, no matter how far-fetched or doubtful the probability, that Anna Anderson really was Anastasia Romanov.
If a miracle did happen, and Anastasia somehow managed to survive, we could all rationalize our fascination with the Czar’s daughter, from Ingrid Bergman’s oscar winning portrayal, to the animated Disney film, and all points in between. But, of course, the reality is far more serious and grim.
This novel is obviously a very ambitious undertaking. Giving voice to Anastasia, and Anna Anderson, describing minute historical details, adding authentic and vivid dialogue, along with solid pacing, and well-drawn characterizations.
INGRID BERGMAN AS ANASTASIA
This story is very interesting, and the author certainly did her homework, doing a great job of laying out Anna’s complexities. Anna was difficult, but also lived with a host of mental issues, making her a sympathetic figure on occasion, which left me with conflicting emotions. I often wondered how other people who have read this book felt about her in the end.
However, I must address the elephant in the room when it comes to the way the author structured the novel. She explains the method to her madness in a note at the end of the book, and it does make sense, from the viewpoint of the writer, and logically, I see where she’s coming from. However, the backwards/forwards, first and third person narratives made the book more difficult to read than need be, in my opinion. I did struggle with the format, I must say. However, others may not be bothered by it at all, and may even benefit from it. I’m not always the sharpest tool in the shed, so there is that. However, I did agree with the concept of separating ‘Anastasia’ from ‘Anna’, but I did wish for a more traditional type of dual timeline, without all that skipping around.
The novel’s strongest area is the pacing and the agonizingly taut build -up of suspense. We must watch with mounting dread as the Romanov’s are taken to Siberia, the clock ticking away as they careen towards their ultimate, tragic fate. This part of the story is interwoven with Anna’s as she sits in a German court waiting on their decision, hoping she will at long last lay legitimate and official claim to the name ‘Anastasia Romanov’. The theories mapped out here are very imaginative, plausible, realistic and thought provoking. I can tell the author put a great deal of thought and time into this novel, which is much appreciated. Although it took me a long time to get through the book, really struggling with it at times, ultimately, I found it to be quite interesting and I’m glad I didn’t give up on it.
One point I think we can all agree on, no matter what, is that Anna’s claims turned Anastasia Romanov into a legend, taking on a life of its own. If not for her, Anastasia and her sisters would most likely have long been forgotten over time, along with other royal families who were met with the same fate. Just a little something to ponder over-
I do recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Romanov history, of course, but be prepared- this is not a fairy tale! I would also recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction in general. This book will most likely spark your curiosity about the Romanov family and you will want to learn more about this them, and the events leading up to their capture, exile, and murders.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
riel Lawhon is a critically acclaimed author of historical fiction. Her books have been translated into numerous languages and have been Library Reads, One Book One County, and Book of the Month Club selections. She is the co-founder of SheReads.org and lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband, four sons, and black Lab—who is, thankfully, a girl.