45 Books In 2018 #39:I Was Anastasia By Ariel Lawhon

I’ve read a lot of historical fiction about the Romanovs. And by that I mean the “final family” as I’ve been calling them in my head for the past decade. I became fascinated by the legend of the lost princess Anastasia when I was really little. (My obsession even predates the Fox animated classic Anastasia. I was that annoying kid pointing out all of the historical inaccurracies in that flick.) (And not even the obvious stuff, like “Zombie monk.”) (I was very popular, as I’m sure you can tell.) My favorite is certainly The Kitchen Boy, but I’ve read some doozies.

I Was Anastasia is a very good book, focused on two timelines, one moving backwards, the other forwards until they meet, we’re told the story of Anastasia’s last days as a prisoner, and the story of Anna Anderson, the woman who claimed to be the Grand Duchess for years. Anna’s half of the book begins on the day her final appeal to be recognized by the German government as Anastasia Romanov. Anastasia’s half begins the day of her father’s abdication.

The stories meet in the middle, with the most likely explanation of what happened to Anderson facilitating her great con. (Or delusion, depending on your point of view.) Anderson’s story was more fun for me as it’s the one that I’m less familiar with.

Lawhon didn’t really add many new wrinkles to the “Romanovs in Siberia” stuff. Everything I’ve read before was here. The girls sewing their jewels into the clothing, their fierce protection of Alexie, Anastasia’s torture of their tutors, flirtations and love affairs with revolutionary guards. She does add a rape subplot. I’d never seen that before. (I’m not sure why. I mean, asserting that the guards may have raped the Grand Duchesses and Tsarina isn’t exactly a huge stretch) (I think this proves how unnecessary rape subplots are in certain narratives though.)

Look, reading this book was like curling up someplace homey for me. I wasn’t ever going to be blown away by it. An Anastasia book would have to be amazing to blow me away at this point, but it was good, comforting and had some stuff I’d never seen before, mostly the Anna Anderson stuff, but still, it’s nice to get back into old obsessions occasionally…maybe I’ll listen to some Billy Joel and watch Glee now.

OK, not really, I’m actually going to read The Witching Hour. Because old obsessions are great to revisit, and all, but new obsessions are better.


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