Customer Review

159 of 175 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Review by Closed the Cover, June 3, 2014
This review is from: The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra (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. I missed reading about them when they were omitted although when they were included they felt lifeless almost as though they were included as an afterthought or only because they were part of “OTMA.” It also felt somewhat “off” that Rappaport failed to include the final days of this unique family with any importance. While reading this book I often felt that the purpose of this one was only to entice readers to purchase Rappaport’s other works. In 2008 she wrote, “The Last days of the Romanovs: Tragedy at Ekaterinburg” also published by St. Martin’s Press which was a bestseller. It felt like “The Romanov Sisters” ended without delving too much into the final tragedy because readers are expected to purchase her 2008 release. While it may indeed have interested me in her other work this book ended rather awkwardly and rushed.

In the end I’m left feeling conflicted and undecided. I liked the history of the Romanov family but I feel as though the sisters were not the main focus despite how the book is described. I enjoyed the Russian history but didn’t expect it. The family as a whole was heavily involved with Alexei, the Romanov brother, overshadowing his sisters in the book as he did in life. The ending was rushed, awkward and felt as though it was intended only to encourage readers to purchase Rappaport’s other work. A good book? Yes. As described? No.

Review by Ashley LaMar
Closed the Cover
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Comments

Tracked by 4 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 10 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 4, 2014 12:27:31 PM PDT
Coralrose says:
What you have described in your review sounds like 'False Advertising': The publishers of 'The Romanov Sister' probably decided they would make an enticing blurb to get attention for said book. It is like a movie review. You see parts of a forthcoming movie and frequently, some scenes they show in the trailer never make it into the actual film. You are not the first to complain about what the book jacket promises and you will not be the last.

Posted on Jun 4, 2014 5:17:37 PM PDT
J. Perry says:
Thank you for your review! This book has been on my Amazon wishlist for so long, even before an excerpt was available. When I did read the excerpt, the book lost a little of its appeal. Having read Robert K. Massie's incredible Romanov biography, Nicholas and Alexandra, I was already quite familiar with the events of that moment in Russian history, with the backstories of Nicholas and Alexandra and Alexei, and how the latter's disease played a crucial role in the fall of imperial Russia. The excerpt, I found, did not seem to offer much on the sisters, OTMA, and I thought that was a very bad sign if they were hardly mentioned in the excerpt. Not much is known about OTMA, which is why I was looking forward to this book; I thought there might be new research or a new angle or just a new light to be shown on them. If that is not the case, then I won't bother purchasing this book. This happened when I bought Blood Sisters: The Women Behind the Wars of the Roses; same recycled information but with a new ad scheme, probably designed to pander to women yet there's so little known about those historical women, it's just info one could get from Wikipedia. Your review confirms my suspicions.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 4, 2014 5:24:14 PM PDT
Ashley LaMar says:
It was disappointing. I don't mean to imply it's a bad book because it certainly isn't; it just is not as described nor as expected. I wanted to read more about the girls and less about the family as a whole. I wanted more personal insight into them but instead it felt like it was a just a ploy to either make readers want to buy the other book and/or make those who loved the other book buy this one. There's nothing new in it and therefore, for anyone already familiar with the Romanov's, it's not worth the time invested in reading it. It's quite a long book.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 5, 2014 11:10:17 PM PDT
J. Perry says:
"There's nothing new in it and therefore, for anyone already familiar with the Romanov's, it's not worth the time invested in reading it."

That's all I needed to know. Thanks!

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 9, 2014 1:07:05 PM PDT
Yogini Lyne says:
I have to agree with J. Perry's post. I think Robert K. Massie's book is one of the most informative books on the Romanov family ever written. I have not read, "The Romanov Sisters", but after reading the reviews, I probably will not bother with it. If you are not familiar with the in depth history contained in "Nicholas & Alexandra", then this may fill in more of the details for you. I do think that it is important to understand the mindset of that era regarding Alexandra's deep desire/need to produce a male heir. On the surface, it seemed that most of the attention was focused on Alexei, but after reading "N & A", you see how incredibly devoted they all were to each other. From Alexandra breastfeeding all 5 of her children, to her taking a personal role in their education and upbringing; she was utterly devoted to all of them. In turn, one of her daughters were always in attendance of her after her health began to deteriorate. All 4 girls adored Alexei and were just as doting as their parents were. Once they became imprisoned at Tsarskoe Selo (and there after), you begin to understand how close they all were as a family unit.

Posted on Jun 13, 2014 7:02:52 AM PDT
The simple fact of the Romanov family was that Alexis did dominate the personal lives of the family. He was the heir apparent, and his illness eclipsed nearly all else, including the Czar's inability or unwillingness to see what was happening politically (as well as everything else) in his country. Still, the book sounds like a good read, but perhaps I will wait until it is in paperback.

Posted on Jul 4, 2014 1:59:02 PM PDT
I found this review a trifle irritating. The Romanov sisters were part of a family and in order to have a more nuanced understanding of them they cannot be written about in a separate cocoon from their parents and their brother. The comments about it being a ruse by the publisher to sell Rappaport's other book, The Last Days of the Romanovs, were a bit below the belt too. Rappaport makes it clear in her introduction that she is more interested, in this book, in revealing their lives, not the tragic drama of their deaths ( which has constantly overshadowed those lives). The fact that she has separated the two in two different books speaks volumes about her skill as a writer. It was unclear to me whether Ashley LaMar was attacking Rappaport or the publisher's blurb. I think it is unfortunate that the focus on the blurb's claims should be so heavily highlighted since this is not Rappaport's writing.Why should a piece of publishers advertising invoke such an irritated response? It makes me wonder if the reviewer is equally annoyed by "I Can't Believe It Isn't Butter" spread in the supermarket that does not taste like butter. As a professional historian, I read the book because I am interested in Russian history and because I have read her other books and think she is not only a meticulous researcher and linguist but also a considerable stylist. I never looked at the blurb. I did, however read with care Rappaport's endnotes and bibliography which are astonishingly thorough and a real tour de force of scholarship. She leaves no stone unturned. To be able to do that and engage the reader in an enormously persuasive narrative, in which all four sisters emerge, with equal strength, as individuals, is a remarkable achievement.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 4, 2014 4:13:44 PM PDT
LWD01915 says:
Great points-perhaps you should have written your comment as a review. It seems as if the lives of the daughters of the last Tsar are still of considerable interest but your point that their short lives cannot really be written in a "separate cocoon from their
parents and brother" is not only valid but kind of the point of the entire book. Rappaport did, as you noted, leave "no stone unturned" (the bibliography IS incredibly extensive). And finally, we do not have to read another book about Anastasia somehow surviving the mass slaughter and reappearing as Anna Anderson. Thanks for your well-written comment to a rather unfair review.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 24, 2014 10:28:47 AM PDT
by Betts says:
Excellent points. I am reading the book right now, and it is obvious that you cannot write just about the sisters, but the story of the whole family is necessary.

Posted on Dec 9, 2014 8:58:05 AM PST
R. Lowe says:
It is true, the entire family was concerned only with Alexei. The ultimate goal was for him to succeed his father and rule Russia. All the girls were supposed to do was eventually be married off. I enjoyed this book immensely. My heart breaks for the girls. Reading of their crushes, their real denial of a normal life, friends and what little we know of their personalities, likes, dislikes was haunting. I honestly feel that Olga knew they were doomed once they were locked up. Alexandra denied those girls a life. She did everything she could to keep them with her, to keep them younger and more immature than they should have been. I don't doubt she loved them but she also put them on the road to their ultimate destruction. I think Helen Rappaport wrote an excellent book. I look at the photo on the cover and I wonder...what if Nicholas had abdicated in 1905. What if at the coming of WW1 he had sent them out of the country...what if....what if.
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