They were beautiful, wealthy, and the fascination of royalty-watchers worldwide, but they were also sheltered girls, largely lost to myth after their untimely murder in 1918 by revolutionaries. Rappaport provides a peek behind the screen, a look inside the family life of the Romanovs from the marriage of Alexandra and Nicholas, through the birth of four daughters, to the long awaited birth of the precious male heir Alexi. Here, we hear their voices and witness their every day lives through countless diary entires and letters to friends and relatives. Using politics and the Rasputin phenomenon only as backdrops to bring her characters into focus, Rappaport explores their individual personalities, the dynamics of the family, their closest friendships, and their brave acceptance of the unfolding terror that eventually claimed their lives. Beyond the beautiful faces and pressed white dresses, we learn of the precarious health issues suffered by both the Empress and Alexi, the Empress’ almost pathological fear of the Russian nobility and outsiders, and the Empress’ deep anxiety over the health of her son, all of which created the isolated existence the children led. The Tsar, on the other hand, had a more fatalistic personalty, a reluctant ruler who preferred physical, outdoor pursuits over the burdens of leadership. Their closed off world of quiet family pleasantries sharply changed as war broke out and the Tsar was forced to command the military while the girls proved to be caring, devoted nurses who did everything from helping in the surgery to bandaging severe wounds. And hanging over the family like a black cloud was Rasputin, whose dark character was well known to the Romanovs, but his inexplicable ability to save the young Tsarevich Alexi at every turn made him indispensable to the fearful Empress.
I listened to the Audible version of this book, wonderfully narrated by Xe Sands who really makes each Romanov girl come to life. You despair as the innocent children approach the foregone conclusion. The end is so dimple and heart wrenching – you feel like you’ve come to know each person – that it will remain with you long after the book is finished. Highly recommended!
Amazon link for the book is here.