Even during the lifetime of the four beautiful Romanov sisters, their mysterious personal lives lead to much speculation and idolization. This book uses many diaries, letters, and other first person accounts to bring the sisters to life. The book starts when their mother journeys to Russia, a lonely bride in a strange land. It then follows the rest of the sisters’ lives, through the beginning of the first world war and their eventual murder by Bolshevik soldiers.
I was surprised that knowing the end of this story didn’t bother me. On the contrary, the constant reminder that the sisters’ sadly sheltered lives ended in such a tragic fashion gave this book a poignancy which I think was its’ best feature. The many first-person accounts did a great job bringing the sisters’ individual personalities to life. It was hard to not feel desperately sad for the whole family as you got to know them and saw times where their deaths might have been avoided had things gone a little differently. The most interesting parts of the story, for me, were those which highlighted the times in which the sisters lived. Both connections to large events (the outbreak of WWI, the reign of George VI of The King’s Speech) and to smaller events (Russia’s first women doctors and first motion pictures), made for a fascinating backdrop.
The details of the lives of the sisters themselves were less interesting. They led very sheltered lives, so often large chunks of the book passed with no significant changes in their lives. The constrained lives they lived in prison were boring, but no more so than their early lives sheltered by their mother. The only briefly exciting part of their story was when they served with great dedication as nurses after the outbreak of WWI. I’ve read several positive reviews of this book (including this one from Julz Reads), but it just wasn’t my favorite. Honestly, I spent much of the story waiting to reach the end, which is never a good way to feel about a book! However, I think it’s fair to say that this book has really pleased many fans with greater prior interest in the Romanovs, so don’t let my negative review dissuade you too much on this one.This review first published on Doing Dewey.