Thursday, July 10, 2014

Four Sisters by Helen Rappaport

I have had an abiding interest in the family of the last Tsar of Russia, his wife, children and extended family since I read Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K Massie when I was 15 years old which is now quite along while ago, to me they are almost family.
I had always hoped that a book would be written about Nicholas' four daughters: Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia and now it has.
Helen Rappaport has written a number of books on the Romanovs, each a very good read but this book stands out for the sensitive and caring manner in which Rappaport has unravelled the lives of these four young women who have largely been overshadowed by their haemophiliac brother Alexis and the shadow cast over their lives by Rasputin, on whom their Mother, Alexandra developed a most unhealthy reliance.
Each of the four is given her own distinctive voice, we follow them from birth to death and watch as each develops and flowers, until history chops them down in what really was a callous and brutal destruction of lives tainted only by the happenence of their births.
Although over protected and cocooned by their mother, by the time the girls died in 1918 at 22, 20, 19 and 17 respectively they had in their own way lived full lives, much of the latter part devoted to serving others and although a coat of immaturity and a lack of social awareness surrounded them, they had grown into kind, caring and loving young women.
This book is wonderfully researched, offering even to myself who has read everything written about them new information and tidbits.
Very well written, the book moves at an even pace, it is fair and balanced and offers a well rounded portrait that sheds new light on the often over looked Romantic Aspect of the girls lives, letters and diary entries complement the text and the book is very well illustrated, it was especially nice to see photographs that were new to my practised eye.
All in all, a fabulous read especially for those who have a special interest in Russian History and the lives of the Romanovs.
As an aside, it also got me thinking that with the line of hemophilia coming down through the maternal line, had these girls lived and married into Royalty, would we today see this now well controlled disease in our own Royals......
Available in trade paperback and through the Library System.

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