The Last Romanov by Dora Levy Mossanen
Published by Sourcebooks Landmark, an imprint of Sourcebooks
Communism has fallen in Russia, but the new power structure is not all that much better, at least to Darya Spiridova’s way of thinking. A former member of the imperial household, the 104 year old Darya has been waiting for decades to restore her beloved Alexei, who she believes survived the assassination of the royal family, to his rightful throne. Now she may get her wish. Darya has received a letter from the Russian Nobility Association about the existence of a Romanov heir they hope for her examine and approve.
Darya’s trip to see the Romanov heir is largely a frame for her remembrances of life in the last days of imperial Russia, starting around the time of Alexei’s conception and birth. Blessed with an opal eye, Darya has a reputation as a healer and is engaged by the Tsarina as Alexei’s nurse once his hemophilia becomes obvious. Darya is a woman with fingers in many pies, not only is she the tsarevich’s nurse, she is also a patron of the arts, and the woman who introduces Rasputin to the Romanovs.
The Last Romanov is an interesting account of the end of Imperial Russia. Intriguingly, the book is based around the story of a woman with a strong connection, much as is Kathryn Harrison’s Enchantments, another recent book about the same period. Here, the similarities stop, however. Despite the contemporary frame, Mossanen’s book employs a much more straight-forward style of storytelling, It is also, though, much more focused on Darya than on the royal family. There is a a bit of a strange semi-supernatural subplot, revealed to Darya by Rasputin, but it does not detract from the rest of the story, and in fact supports Darya’s obsession with Alexei regaining his rightful throne.
With engaging writing and an interesting, if at times slightly strange, plot, The Last Romanov is a great read for those interested in the time period.
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