Award-winning and critically acclaimed historian Helen Rappaport turns to the tragic story of the daughters of the last Tsar of all the Russias, slaughtered with their parents at Ekaterinburg. On 17 July 1918, four young women walked down 23 steps into the cellar of a house in Ekaterinburg. The eldest was 22, the youngest only 17. Together with their parents and their 13-year-old brother, they were all brutally murdered. Their crime: to be the daughters of the last Tsar and Tsaritsa of All the Russias. Much has been written about Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra and their tragic fate, as it has about the Russian Revolutions of 1917, but little attention has been paid to the Romanov princesses, who - perhaps inevitably - have been seen as minor players in the drama.
In Four Sisters, however, acclaimed biographer Helen Rappaport puts them centre stage and offers listeners the most authoritative account yet of the Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia. Drawing on their own letters and diaries and other hitherto unexamined primary sources, she paints a vivid picture of their lives in the dying days of the Romanov dynasty. We see, almost for the first time, their journey from a childhood of enormous privilege, throughout which they led a very sheltered and largely simple life, to young womanhood - their first romantic crushes, their hopes and dreams, the difficulty of coping with a mother who was a chronic invalid and a haeomophiliac brother, and, latterly, the trauma of the revolution and its terrible consequences.
Compellingly listenable, meticulously researched, and deeply moving, Four Sisters gives these young women a voice, and allows their story to resonate for listeners almost a century after their death.
©2014 Helen Rappaport (P)2014 Macmillan Publishers, Ltd.
"Rappaport does a superb job of individualising the four girls and their little brother, murdered by the Bolsheviks during the Revolution. A counter-argument would of course ask, what about the lives of ordinary Russian children who died of starvation whilst the Tsar and his family ensconced themselves in their beautiful home, but Rappaport is sensitive to this, and stresses the girls’ efforts as nurses during the First World War, creating sympathy out of their general isolation." (Independent on Sunday, Lesley McDowell)
As someone who is very much interested in history and the First World War and the fall of the Romanov Dynasty, I found this book to be an extremely interesting introduction to the four daughters of Nicholas II and Alexandra- who are often ignored or given only brief notice in books covering the fall of the dynasty. Through the review and translation of their diaries and tthe correspondence and diaries of individuals who interacted with them, Ms. Rappaport has made a great contribution to the story of these four wormen. She has painted them as proper Victorian women raised in a family that walled itself off from imperial society- mostly because of the illness of the Tsarevich and their mother's ill health. The Grand Duchesses are presented as young women who had a strong devotion to their family but also had the same interests and desires that most teenagers have despite their being royalty. The one flaw that I find in the book is that it does not adequately discuss their interaction with Rasputin, the starets who domincated the last two decades of Imperial Russia. This may intentional on the author's part or it might also be that the Grand Duchesses had very limited interaction with him. Karen Cass did an excellent job with the narration transitioning between an English and American English accent when dealing with characters of different nationalities. If you are interested in learning something about Nicholas and Alexandra's daughters, this would be a great place to start.
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