Four Sisters: the lost lives of the Romanov Grand Duchesses – Helen Rappaport

The subtitle of this book should really be “but mainly about their mother Tsaritsa Alexandra Feodorovna” as it isn’t as much about the Grand Duchesses as I would have like it to have been.

The children of the last Russian Tsar are somewhat shadowy figures, their personalities overshadowed by the tragedy of their murders during the revolution.  It turns out, that because of the way they were brought, up away from Court and out of the public eye, they were also shadowy figures to the people of Russia too.

I think that is why this is, on the whole, a frustrating book.

The book needs to explain the Tsar and Tsaritsa; their personalities and their preference for remaining away from the gaze of the public and not wanting to be constantly on show at Court.  I understand that.  However, I feel this could have been accomplished in a shorter way, giving more space and time to Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia, who never really come to life.

For a book about four girls growing up in 20th century this was like reading a biography of medieval women with their personalities and lives being inferred from a few fragmentary sources.  I understand that a lot of those who were close to the family perished in the revolution and that their papers were mainly burnt but there must be some way to piece together what is available to bring them alive.

I don’t feel as though I have added anything to what I already knew about the Grand Duchesses from reading other sources, which is a bit frustrating when this book purports to focus on them and their lives.

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