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The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the…
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The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and… (edition 2015)

by Helen Rappaport (Author)

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8984117,001 (3.9)44
"They were the Princess Dianas of their day--perhaps the most photographed and talked about young royals of the early twentieth century. The four captivating Russian Grand Duchesses--Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia Romanov--were much admired for their happy dispositions, their looks, the clothes they wore and their privileged lifestyle. Over the years, the story of the four Romanov sisters and their tragic end in a basement at Ekaterinburg in 1918 has clouded our view of them, leading to a mass of sentimental and idealized hagiography. With this treasure trove of diaries and letters from the grand duchesses to their friends and family, we learn that they were intelligent, sensitive and perceptive witnesses to the dark turmoil within their immediate family and the ominous approach of the Russian Revolution, the nightmare that would sweep their world away, and them along with it. The Romanov Sisters sets out to capture the joy as well as the insecurities and poignancy of those young lives against the backdrop of the dying days of late Imperial Russia, World War I and the Russian Revolution. Rappaort aims to present a new and challenging take on the story, drawing extensively on previously unseen or unpublished letters, diaries and archival sources, as well as private collections. It is a book that will surprise people, even aficionados"--… (more)

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The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandria by Helen Rappaport is a comprehensive look at the last royal family of Russia. Rappaport attended Leeds University with the intention of joining the Foreign Office. She changed her mind and became an actress. She became a full-time writer in 1998 and has written several books on Russian history and Victorian history. Her work on Lenin caused a stir when she proposed that he died of syphilis rather than a stroke.

Growing up much of the late czarist history I read came from Massie’s Nicholas and Alexandria which by no means was lacking at the time. Research as an undergraduate came from mostly dated sources because little access by the Soviets limited research. The fall of the Soviet Union opened a wealth of new information from the former Soviet archives. My academic researching days were over by that time, but I still tried to keep up.

Two quick points. First, this is an excellent work of research and expands greatly on what I knew of the last Romanovs. Secondly, although there is a great information on the Romanov sisters, the book primarily focuses on the entire family and family life. The sisters do hold a much larger role than in any other source I have read.

Czarist Russia has always seemed to me as a twisted fairytale. When things seem at their best they crash to unbelievable lows. Society seemed caught up in superstition. While the world looked on to the births of four beautiful girls, the Russian population wondered why the German wife couldn’t produce an heir to the throne. When the sickly Alexei much was done to hide his illness. He was the center of domestic attention. The daughters grew up sheltered partly because of their unimportance and partly because of the social unrest. The unpopular, lost war against the Japanese and Bloody Sunday of 1905 did little to raise the czar’s standing with many.

Rappaport does an outstanding job of bringing to light the lives Olga, Tatiana, Marie, and Anastasia. The daughters lives seem out of place and underrated in today’s world of royals. They were well behaved, very educated, volunteered in hospitals during the war, and sold handmade crafts raise money for charities. Although there was no doubt privilege, they lived a relatively frugal and simple life imposed on them by their mother. Their lives are examined as individuals rather than lumped together as one.

The writing is extremely well documented and much of the material comes from primary source materials: letters and diaries. The amount of personal information in included in this book is unprecedented. The children are portrayed as real people in history with many of the same questions and challenges growing up. I have read many history books over the years and this one did such an excellent job of bringing the daughters to life. I got so involved in the story, even knowing the historical outcome, I hoped that it would end differently. Even with all the tragedies in the world, wars, and other catastrophes, this history is truly sad. I really am at a loss to speak more highly of this book. Outstanding history and research. ( )
  evil_cyclist | Mar 16, 2020 |
The Romanov Sisters discusses the lives of the four daughters of Czar Nicholas II of Russia, from the circumstances surrounding their births to their murders in 1917. I found the reading to be informative and captivating.

This current rendering of the four daughters, Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia, brought to the forefront several things I never really considered until now. The girls were taught Russian, English, French, and German. All were fluent in English, and were fluent in varying degrees in the other languages. One of the daughters had a “peculiar” Irish accent when she spoke English because her teacher was Irish. It became evident how strong this accent must have been, when an excerpt from one of her letters shows that she spelled “fault” as “folt.”

We learn that Olga had a fierce temper and could toss things around the room with the best of them. Anastasia could be an imp, Tatiana was a calm young lady and showed signs of leadership, and Maria was flirty. Yet, we also learn about their brother, Alexi, a bouncy, active, sometimes uncontrollable boy who had the misfortune of being a hemophilic. We learn that their mother Alexandria was somewhat of a basket case, thrown into a state of unwellness, particularly after the birth of Alexi. Their father was a dedicated family man, very conservative, and hesitant at change.

What I found the most interesting is that the Czar and Czarina stifled their children and kept them isolated from the world as best as they could. I believe the impetus for this isolation was the discovery that Alexi was a hemophiliac, and they all tried their best to keep it a secret from the Russian people outside palace walls. Eventually, the secret came out, but they did try.

This isolation greatly impacted the four daughters. We learn that they really did not have the social skills to interact with people outside the family, and extended family (English side) noticed that the two older daughters, Olga and Tatiana, conversed as ten- or twelve-year-old would, although they were in their late teens.

It was difficult, it seemed, to find proper husbands for the two oldest. Either dynastically, choices were wrong, or other European houses were worried about hemophilia being passed down through their bloodlines. These seem plausible, and could explain why at least Olga was married by the time her father abdicated the Russian throne.

I wholeheartedly recommend Rappaport's book for its thorough research, interesting photographs, and clearly written chapters and index. ( )
  bookishblond | Oct 24, 2018 |
The Romanov Sisters is a tale that draws you in and holds you breathless as it unfolds. Helen Rappaport tells us of the daughters of the last Tsar and Tsarina of Russia, Nicholas and Alexandra. These girls had distinct personalities under their matching big white hats and dresses, and Rappaport does a good job in separating those personalities and allowing us to get to know the girls on a personal level. Their idyllic family life comes to a screeching halt at the start of World War I, and the heart aches as we know the family's ultimate fate. In this book, the girls come alive as we get to know their daily routines, their hopes and dreams, disappointments, and the intimate world that they lived in. Recommended reading for any lovers of the Romanov genre. ( )
  briandrewz | Jun 26, 2018 |
I know this is non-fiction, but my goodness was this the longest book I have ever read, with details I never cared to know! ( )
  Lisa5127 | Jun 2, 2018 |
I Was Anastasia left me wanting to know more about the Romanovs so I wound up picking up The Romanov Sisters from the library after I finished that one. I think almost to the day that I finished reading Lawhon’s book, Anne Bogel posted a match up recommending it as a companion read. I took it as fate and picked it up. It was a bit dense for a pleasure read—Rappaport heavily footnotes her sources (as she should!) and uses extensive quotes. It was surprisingly readable for what it was, which felt much more like an academic text than a narrative nonfiction meant for a mass audience. I’m not sorry I read it since this is a gaping hole in my historical knowledge, but it was kind of niche—I’m not sure how knowing about three year old Alexey Romanov is going to help me in the future.

I noted in my review of I Was Anastasia that there was less treatment of Nicholas II’s moral failings than I would have liked at the point I was in the book. Rappaport did wind up addressing these briefly, though not as much as I think it probably merited, particularly since she made a point to mention at the end that his image had been rehabilitated somewhat in that the entire Romanov family had been designated as victims of repression. This can be true—no one deserves to be summarily executed in a basement; however, it would be easy to read that book and see the entire Romanov family as a victim when Nicholas had some culpability in the catastrophic failure of his government and the resulting revolution.

More reviews: http://lisaanreads.com ( )
  ImLisaAnn | Apr 12, 2018 |
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In memory of
Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia Romanova
four extraordinary young women
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The day they sent the Romanovs away the Alexander Palace became forlorn and forgotten—a place of ghosts.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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"They were the Princess Dianas of their day--perhaps the most photographed and talked about young royals of the early twentieth century. The four captivating Russian Grand Duchesses--Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia Romanov--were much admired for their happy dispositions, their looks, the clothes they wore and their privileged lifestyle. Over the years, the story of the four Romanov sisters and their tragic end in a basement at Ekaterinburg in 1918 has clouded our view of them, leading to a mass of sentimental and idealized hagiography. With this treasure trove of diaries and letters from the grand duchesses to their friends and family, we learn that they were intelligent, sensitive and perceptive witnesses to the dark turmoil within their immediate family and the ominous approach of the Russian Revolution, the nightmare that would sweep their world away, and them along with it. The Romanov Sisters sets out to capture the joy as well as the insecurities and poignancy of those young lives against the backdrop of the dying days of late Imperial Russia, World War I and the Russian Revolution. Rappaort aims to present a new and challenging take on the story, drawing extensively on previously unseen or unpublished letters, diaries and archival sources, as well as private collections. It is a book that will surprise people, even aficionados"--

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