Review: Anastasia, The Last Grand Duchess

Anastasia: The Last Grand Duchess, Russia, 1914 (The Royal Diaries)Anastasia, The Last Grand Duchess
by Carolyn Meyer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Anastasia, Grand Duchess / 0-439-12908-7

What a disappointment! I usually love the Royal Diaries, but for some reason "Anastasia" seemed dull and listless, such a shame when the real person lived such a riveting life. So many opportunities here are lost and wasted and I simply cannot understand why this one seemed so sluggish.

Father Grigory (aka Rasputin) is dealt with only in the sketchiest of details, which is a shame - Rasputin is a fascinating and controversial historical figure and was integral in the downfall of the Romanovs. As such, he deserves a more prominent place in this book than just as the smelly monk that Anastasia dislikes. Briefly, near the end, his part in the unpopularity of the Romanovs is recounted, but this is done very badly via a few paragraphs of "So-and-so says this..." rather than showing us the lead up to the final confrontation within the pages of the diary. This could have been done very easily, something along the lines of "Mother dismissed Count Such-and-so today, on the advice of Father Grigory," rather than just a hurried backfill of facts at the final moment. Shoddily done, I think.

Also, the hemophilia of the crown prince is a matter of some fascination and interest. Will the crown prince be able to govern effectively? Will he survive long enough to create an heir? Will his sisters (including Anastasia) pass this disease along to their own children? Is the Romanov line doomed completely? These questions are largely ignored in favor of minor anecdotes about the poor prince bruising his shin stupidly and being laid up in bed for days at a time. The larger implications of the disease through the entire family are left unexplored.

A lot of this book feels like a repeat. The diary spans several years, but it is impossible to differentiate the writing of 14-year-old Anastasia from that of 17-year-old Anastasia. This lack of maturity (or at least change) on the part of the narrator makes the novel feel stale and flat. Also, why is the author absolutely obsessed with the pearl-and-diamond custom of the Romanov parents? Each girl gets one pearl and one diamond per year, and at their "coming of age" party, they subsequently have a beautiful pearl-and-diamond necklace. There must be 20 or 30 diary references to this practice and it just starts to feel like the author is recycling material.

This isn't a bad book. I recommend it for the basic historical value inherent. Even though I only finished reading this yesterday, I cannot honestly remember anything overly good to praise, nor can I remember anything risque to warn parents about. The mother and older sisters serve as nurses to a war hospital, which is usually slightly disturbing material but here it is just boring and uninteresting, in my opinion.

~ Ana Mardoll

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