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Enchantments by Kathryn Harrison


by Kathryn Harrison

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I've read several versions of Rasputins life and death, as well as the fall of the Romanoff family. This book didn't provide much new, except for the old Russian tales mixed in throughout the book. Stopped partway through. ( )
  Pmaurer | May 6, 2016 |
Kathryn Harrison's latest novel, Enchantments, takes place primarily in the year leading up to the execution of Russian Tsar Nikolay II and his family. After the murder of their father, Masha and Varya Rasputin are sent to live with the Russian Royal Family. It is Tsarina's hope that Masha has the healing abilities of her late father, Grigori Rasputin, who tended to Prince Alyosha, the Romanov heir who suffered from hemophilia. It is not long after the arrival of the sisters, however, that Tsar Nikolay is forced to abdicate the throne and placed under house arrest with his family. To pass the time and keep Alyosha's mind off his illness, Masha spins stories about the Romanov's, Rasputin, her own childhood and some Russian legends. These stories are intertwined with narrative that is focused on the reality of life under house arrest, as well of Masha's activities after the death of the Romanov's.

I very much enjoyed certain parts of this novel, including the sections of the narrative that give the reader insight into the history of the Romanov downfall, as well as those that provide a glimpse into the life and sufferings of young Alyosha. It is not difficult for the reader to appreciate the pain and despair that young Alyosha must have felt when suffering from a bout of hemophilia. I also liked Harrison's characterization of Grigori Rasputin, who rather than being portrayed as a 'Mad Monk' comes across as a misunderstood and sympathetic figure. Another positive aspect of this novel is Harrison's eloquent prose, which helps to illicit emotion from the reader.

While there is much to like about Enchantments, I do have mixed feelings about this book. Most of the novel is told from Masha's perspective, a character I found difficult to garner an interest in. Although Harrison has a lovely way with words, certain of her descriptions are overdone. While I enjoyed Masha's stories about both the Romanov's and her father, I found myself skimming over those stories that seemingly had little connection to the plot. Masha's post-Revolution life outside of Russia also held little interest to me. Lastly, I thought the constant jumps back and forth in time disruptive to the overall flow of the novel.

Despite my issues with certain aspects of Enchantments, I think the positives of the novel ultimately outweigh the negatives and for this reason I would recommend the book to readers interested in Russian history, as well as to readers who enjoy historical fiction with a more literary bent.
( )
  Melissa_J | Jan 15, 2016 |
I have ancestors that lived the life written about in so many Russian Novels and history books. I have always been intrigued by the Romanovs and their stories. Enchantments gave me another point of reference into their lives and those around them. Very well written with compassion for a family that was not always understood. I really enjoyed this book and would love to read other stories from Kathryn that take us inside this cursed family.
Thank you Kathryn.

I received this book free through a Goodreads giveaway. ( )
  ava-st-claire | Feb 21, 2014 |
I've just spent a day in Tsarist Russia, with the daughter of the infamous Rasputin and the family of Tsar Nicolay. Enchantments is one of those perfect historical novels that inserts fascinating facts into a hypothesized storyline in such a way that you go merrily along, not questioning, just enjoying.

I had picked up the book as part of my course requirements for "Reading Fiction" for the Gotham Writers Workshop. I had to gulp it back as the library wants it back tomorrow, so it gave me an excuse to immerse myself and I was glad I did.

Well worth a read.
( )
  Dabble58 | Jan 1, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This was one of those books that I wanted badly and then didn't read for about a year. I would pick it up and then put it back because I wasn't sure if I would like it. I love history, but I am not really at all familiar with the Romanov's. Unless you count the Anastasia movie from the 90s with Meg Ryan as the voice of Anastasia, which I am super sure is not at all historically acurate. Bats, after all, don't really talk.

And it they do someone better tell me.

So back to what I was saying. I wasn't sure if I would be captivated by the book. And I was so wrong. I fell in love with Alyosha, the heir to the throne, who suffered from hemophilia. And Masha, one of Rasputin's daughters who basically becomes Alyosha's companion after her father is killed. Their relationship was beautiful. They have an obvious connection in the book that was so sweet but also heart wrenching because, well, we all know what happened in real life to the Romanov's.

I loved Alyosha in this book. He was constantly sick, but he was very strong on the inside. I think he guessed what was going to happen to his family before the rest of them.

As for historical aspects, I really can't say how accurate certain parts were because I no pretty much nothing about this part of Russian history. But the book was written so well that I was ready to believe that this was a real story, which says something about the writing.

This was a wonderful, enchanting book about innocent love. I was left pondering for days afterward what would have blossomed between Masha and Alyosha had history been different. I definitely recommend this one. ( )
  tomgirl571 | Jun 1, 2013 |
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The eyes those silent tongues of love.
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Behold: In the beginning there was everything, just as there is now.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
From Kathryn Harrison, one of America’s most admired literary voices, comes a gorgeously written, enthralling novel set in the final days of Russia’s Romanov Empire.

St. Petersburg, 1917. After Rasputin’s body is pulled from the icy waters of the Neva River, his eighteen-year-old daughter, Masha, is sent to live at the imperial palace with Tsar Nikolay and his family—including the headstrong Prince Alyosha. Desperately hoping that Masha has inherited Rasputin’s miraculous healing powers, Tsarina Alexandra asks her to tend to Aloysha, who suffers from hemophilia, a blood disease that keeps the boy confined to his sickbed, lest a simple scrape or bump prove fatal.

Two months after Masha arrives at the palace, the tsar is forced to abdicate, and Bolsheviks place the royal family under house arrest. As Russia descends into civil war, Masha and Alyosha grieve the loss of their former lives, finding solace in each other’s company. To escape the confinement of the palace, they tell stories—some embellished and some entirely imagined—about Nikolay and Alexandra’s courtship, Rasputin’s many exploits, and the wild and wonderful country on the brink of an irrevocable transformation. In the worlds of their imagination, the weak become strong, legend becomes fact, and a future that will never come to pass feels close at hand.

Mesmerizing, haunting, and told in Kathryn Harrison’s signature crystalline prose, Enchantments is a love story about two people who come together as everything around them is falling apart.
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Rasputin's daughter, Masha, is sent to live with the royal family after her father's death. Tsarina Alexandra asks her to tend to Prince Aloysha, hoping that she has inherited Rasputin's healing powers. After Tsar Nikolay is forced to abdicate, Masha and Aloysha find solace in each other's company and tell stories as a way to escape their confinement by the Bolsheviks. In the worlds of their imagination the weak become strong, legend becomes fact, and a future that will never come to pass feels close.… (more)

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