The Lost Crown by Sarah MillerJune 14th 2011; Atheneum
Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia. Like the fingers on a hand--first headstrong Olga; then Tatiana, the tallest; Maria the most hopeful for a ring; and Anastasia, the smallest. These are the daughters of Tsar Nicholas II, grand dutchesses living a life steeped in tradition and privilege. They are each on the brink of starting their own lives, at the mercy of royal matchmakers. The summer of 1914 is that precious last wink of time when they can still be sisters together--sisters that link arms and laugh, sisters that share their dreams and worries, and flirt with the officers of their imperial yacht.
But in a gunshot the future changes for these sisters and for Russia.
As World War I ignites across Europe, political unrest sweeps Russia. First dissent, then disorder, mutiny, and revolution. For Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia, the end of their girlhood together is colliding with the end of more than they ever imagined.
At the same time hopeful and hopeless, naive and wise, the voices of these sisters become a chorus singing the final song of Imperial Russia. Impeccably researched and utterly fascinating, this novel by acclaimed author Sarah Miller recounts the final days of Imperial Russia with lyricism, criticism and true compassion. (courtesy of Goodreads)
I have been fascinated by the doomed Romanov children for years. I think it's because they took so many photos of themselves. The photos make the imperial family in their pretty dresses and sailor suit with the occasional smile (unusual in pictures of that era) make them look approachable and real. It makes their ending seem even more horrible.
The Lost Crown covers the last four years of the imperial family's life. It starts out at the beginning of World War I, when things are basically fine, with just an undercurrent of problems to come. The imperial children have a charmed, happy life, marred only by Aleksei's hemophilia.
It is easy to forget that the girls were in their late teens and early twenties during this time period. Throughout the book, they seem much younger than their actual ages. They've been so sheltered throughout their lives, that they are more children than young women. They keep this naivete even as things go increasingly sour. While it seems odd that people of their age would be so immature, I am guessing this may be fairly realistic. They really weren't exposed to the real world.
I was surprised the book was as long as it was. The author did a good job of switching things up, showing things from different points of view, having events move steadily forward, but I still think you easily could have docked 50-100 pages. That being said, I was impressed with how she managed to add plot and drama to the girls' lives in captivity when every day was really more of the same.
The Lost Crown is a great book for anyone interested in the Romanov family. It's not a super-speedy read and it is very depressing, but it is consistently interesting and sweet.