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The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra Hardcover – June 3, 2014

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The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra + The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia (Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children (Awards))
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Rappaport, who has previously written about the last days of the Romanov family as well as the lives of other royal families, here turns her attention to Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia, murdered along with their brother and parents in 1918. Yet, in some ways, this is less about the girls and more about their mother, Alexandra, whose despair at producing four girls before giving birth to a hemophiliac son, is palpable. Rappaport uses the sisters’ letters and diaries to illuminate their lives, but they rarely jump off the pages as real people, even though they are each described with specific personality traits. Perhaps not surprisingly, it is when their relationships with the magnetic Rasputin are introduced that the girls seem the most alive. What also comes through quite clearly is the great love and devotion each of the Romanov family members felt for each other, despite living through the harshest of circumstances. The haunting cover photograph of the Romanov sisters will draw readers, and the extensive bibliography will aid those who want to learn more. --Ilene Cooper

Review

Rappaport paints a compelling portrait of Tatiana, Olga, Maria and Anastasia (People)

A gossipy, revealing story of the doomed Russian family's fairy tale life told by an expert in the field. (Kirkus Reviews)

In their time, Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia were depicted in international accounts as a cute, indistinguishable quartet. But Rappaport brings out each one's character and does it neatly, with a fine touch. . . . While we know that the family's fate will be tragic, the girls don't, and Rappaport, with a light hand and admiring eyes, allows the four Grand Duchesses to grow on us as they grow up. (Christian Science Monitor)

Rappaport is good at showing life within the castle gates… [she] makes a genuinely new, interesting contribution to the Romanov story, which is likely to appeal to both general and specialist readers. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

In this new volume Helen Rappaport mines a trove of fresh material as she uncovers the lost lives of the daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra. (Buffalo News)

The public spoke of the sisters in a gentile, superficial manner, but Rappaport captures sections of letters and diary entries to showcase the sisters' thoughtfulness and intelligence. Readers will be swept up in the author's leisurely yet informative narrative as she sheds new light on the lives of the four daughters. (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

The haunting cover photograph of the Romanov sisters will draw readers, and the extensive bibliography will aid those who want to learn more. (Booklist)

As shocking and immediate as a thriller... [A] gripping read. (People magazine (3 ½ stars) on The Last Days of the Romanovs)

Rappaport offers an absorbing, perceptive, and detailed picture of a constitutional monarchy in crisis. (Publishers Weekly on A Magnificent Obsession)

An absorbing account of the making of a queen through her awful, protracted grief. (Kirkus Reviews on A Magnificent Obsession)

Quite simply, stunning. . . . Chilling and poignant, this is how history books should be written. (Alison Weir, author of Henry VIII: The King and His Court on The Last Days of the Romanovs)

A fluid and astute writer, Rappaport delivers a historically discerning portrait of Victoria in the 1860s. (Booklist on A Magnificent Obsession)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First Edition edition (June 3, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250020204
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250020208
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.6 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (398 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #44,183 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

256 of 274 people found the following review helpful By Historical Fiction Notebook on June 3, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
I came very close to not requesting a review copy of this book. I thought there was no point. I thought I'd reached my limit on Romanov books - they rarely contain anything new, they're all drawing on the same primary source material and sadly, the Romanovs have reached a point at which they don't even really seem like real people anymore. They're more like copies of characters in some old novel.

I am so glad that I went ahead and read this - not only is it one of my few five-star reads so far this year, it will probably become one of my favorite Romanov books of all time. Rappaport is a brilliant writer and researcher. She has accomplished what I did not think was possible - taught me many new things about life in Imperial Russia, about the lives of these four young women and why I should care about them and given me an eerily real sense of that long-ago time.

My e-galley copy is filled with highlighted passages and notes - many of them noting places with brand-new anecdotes from previously unpublished sources. I kept coming across them with genuine delight and surprise - I've been reading about the Romanovs for twenty years and never come across some of these stories. Rappaport also a good ear for excerpting funny, poignant and revealing passages from the girls' letters and diaries. You get a very good sense of their individual voices from reading this book.

I feel as though - for the first time - I can actually tell the girls apart and that the differences in their personalities are a revelation. I have a much more nuanced understanding of the Romanov family. Rappaport also managed the almost unthinkable in getting me to feel empathy for the Empress Alexandra. I am not a big fan of hers and believe she was an utterly disastrous ruler, wife and (even) mother.
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146 of 157 people found the following review helpful By JLee VINE VOICE on May 3, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is an incredible book, beautifully written and researched. It is also heartbreaking. I can’t tell you how many times I read something about one of the four Romanov sisters, the doomed daughters of Czar Nicholas and Alexandra, that caused me to stop reading and just stare at the faces on the cover. The author brings these young women to life, and it is impossible not to grieve for the innocent, young lives lost too soon.

Although the title refers to the four sisters (who referred to themselves as OTMA – Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia), the book actually begins before the marriage of their parents. Nicholas and Alexandra came to love each other very much; they were absolutely perfect for each other. They were absolutely wrong for the Russian monarchy. Nicholas would have made a wonderful country gentleman. Alexandra was very shy and suffered from health problems that limited her mobility. They were, however, warm and loving persons. How happy they could have been in other circumstances.

From Alexandra, Russia expects two things – for her to give birth to a son, and for her to be a social leader. Instead, she is almost invisible except for the disappointing announcements, one after another after another, of the birth of her daughters. And then, while the rest of the world is fascinated by the four Grand Duchesses, in Russia they are viewed as irrelevant and unimportant.

The girls live in virtual isolation. The only freedom they have is when they travel, especially on their yacht. They are constantly under threat, and they are constantly surrounded by armed guards. Still, they are brought up to be loving and charitable persons. Their personalities do come across. Anastasia is often a brat. Tatiana and Maria are stalwart.
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174 of 192 people found the following review helpful By Ashley LaMar on June 3, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
After finishing The Romanov Sisters I feel pleasantly deceived but deceived nonetheless. The Romanov Sisters by Helen Rappaport is presented as a book about the lives of the four young Romanov girls – Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia – however much of the book isn’t about them at all. The book focuses very heavily on their parents, their brother Alexei and the political turmoil of Russia. The first 15%-20% of the book details the background of their mother, Alexandra, rather than introducing the girls themselves. The awkwardness of this is only compounded by the lack of background on their father, Nicholas. While I did indeed enjoy this glimpse inside the lives of the Romanov family and it does feel thoroughly and accurately researched I can’t help but feel that readers who are seeking a book about the sisters (affectionately referred to as OTMA by combining the first letters of their first names) may be disappointed.

It almost feels as though this book deserves two separate reviews – one for the book as described and one for the book as written. As described the book is a failure but as written it’s actually a wonderful read. Considering this book, not as a book about the sisters, but rather as a book about the family and the political turmoil of their country, it is a definite success.

In this book the story of the sisters is frequently overshadowed by their younger brother Alexei or by the lives of their parents. When the sisters are the focus of the writing Rappaport pays far more attention to the lives of the older sisters, Olga and Tatiana, leaving Maria and Anastasia in the shadows and nearly forgotten.
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