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Enchantments: A Novel by Kathryn Harrison

Enchantments: A Novel (edition 2012)

by Kathryn Harrison

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2673742,587 (3.34)16
Title:Enchantments: A Novel
Authors:Kathryn Harrison
Info:Random House (2012), Hardcover, 336 pages
Collections:Untitled collection
Tags:2012, Russia, WWI

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Enchantments by Kathryn Harrison

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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 |
I like historical fiction and love the era of the Romanovs. This takes place after the death of the enigmatic Rasputin, who has left 2 daughters behind. Masha, the oldest is the hope for the young hemophiliac prince, Alyosha, but she does not possess the powers of her father, but she is a wonderful storyteller. She and Alyosha develop a bond as she tells him mostly made up stories about the palace. It is well-written in a magical type way, it is enchanting like the title. If compared to the historical fiction of Hillary Mantel, it is lacking but it is a step up from a Philippa Gregory HF novel. I think if just read as a novel, it holds up better. My favorite way to learn about history is through fiction but that doesn't mean everything in here is true. You will have to look facts yourself. But it is a different look at a fascinating time period. ( )
  bookmagic | Apr 5, 2013 |
Rasputin is a name to which history has not been particularly kind: the Mad Monk, sexually rapacious charlatan, filthy heretic, villain, predatory opportunist who was amongst the major reasons for the overthrow of the last tsar of Russia. It is hard to tease out the man from the myth, a myth written by the historical victors and Kathryn Harrison, in her newest novel, Enchantments, doesn't really try to dispell or reinforce the popular view of the public Rasputin. Instead she comes at him obliquely, through the eyes of his daughter. And what of Rasputin's eldest daughter? Maria Rasputin was only 18 when her father was murdered and she and her younger sister were taken under the protection of the Romanovs. These two girls lived with the royal family during their final days in power and in the early days of their captivity and house arrest. Although the tsarina has hopes that Maria (Masha) has inherited her father's healing ability, the power to ease and stop Alexei's hemophilia, she hasn't. What Masha does have, through her growing friendship with Alexei (Alyosha) and life with the Romanovs, is an insider's view of the end of a reign, a daughter's understanding of her father, and a very personal connection to the flesh and blood people up against the execution wall of history.

Told many years after the Revolution, Masha looks back on her past, her father, and her friendship with Alyosha Romanov, recounting that pivotal year she lost her much beloved father and half fell in love with the tsarevich, entertaining him with her fantastical stories, distracting him from both his pain and the simmering knowledge that he and his family were living under a death sentence. Masha spends many hours with the tsarevich recounting Russian history, his family's personal history, and her father's life. She tells of Rasputin's early life and how he became known as the mystical healer upon whom the Tsarina latched to save her precious son. She doesn't gloss over the way he accepted sexual favors as his due nor over the way he put his position above the daughters who loved him so well and his succumbing to the worldly temptations of the capital but she shows him as a more balanced man, holy and gifted and feared and martyred in equal measure. She creates a picture of Grigory Rasputin that does not often jibe with other, perhaps admittedly, biased accounts.

But her own father's reputation and life is not all she speaks of with Alyosha. Masha creates fantastical tales of his parents' courtship and love match. She recounts the madcap celebration of Tsar Nikolay's coronation and the tragedy in its wake. She draws intimate pictures of both the Tsar and Tsarina, capturing their humanity far beyond them as symbols of the monarchy. And the tsarevich listens enthralled, always wanting more, learning to see through the imagination and eyes of Masha. As she acts as his Sheherazade, the two, Masha and Alyosha, bcome extraordinarily close companions and confidantes. Alyosha feels comfortable enough with Masha to try to explore his new and budding sexuality with her although the majority of their interactions are centered around the stories Masha tells, almost folkloric in feel.

While the end of the Romanov tale is in no doubt, Harrison has done a beautiful job with the pacing of this non-linear novel, keeping the tension high as they move inexorably toward their date with destiny. The novel is a seamless blend of history and fiction, with the latter bringing the real life characters into clearer focus, giving them inner lives, desires, and pressures. Her use of Masha as a story-teller to educate Alexei (and the reader) on the history behind his birthright is well done and believable even when she tells of the most fantastical events and happenings. There is a sense of inevitability and yet the small dogged desperation of hope woven throughout the novel. Although the story continues with Masha's life outside of Russia and touches on the almost unbelievable path she trod as a performer, once her connection to the Romanov family is gone, the story is somehow less captivating. The major interest here is her complicated relationship with the doomed tsarevich rather than her life post-Revolution. Harrison has drawn a magnificent picture of a Russia in turmoil and the preternaturally calm patch of it that the royal family tried to maintain as the noose tightened around them. The writing is magical and fanastical evoking place and character beautifully and the reading was smooth and satisfying. Historical fiction fans, especially those enchanted by the doomed beauty of the last of the Romanovs, will enjoy this novel very much. ( )
  whitreidtan | Mar 6, 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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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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