UK Hardback Edition
US Hardback Edition
WRITER HISTORIAN RUSSIANIST
THE LOST LIVES OF THE ROMANOV GRAND DUCHESSES
PUBLICATION: UK: Pan Macmillan, 27 March 2014 USA: St Martin's Press, 3 June 2014
The four captivating young Romanov sisters were perhaps the most photographed and talked about young royals of the early twentieth century. And with good reason; they were much admired for their happy dispositions, their looks, and their devotion to their parents and sick brother. From an early age they were inevitably at the centre of unceasing gossip about the dynastic marriages they might make. But who were they really beyond the saccharine image perpetuated by those now familiar photographs of them as pretty girls in white dresses and big hats? What were their personal hopes, dreams and aspirations and how did they interact with each other and with their parents? What was life really like within the highly insular Imperial Family and how did they really feel about their mother’s obsessive and all consuming love for their spoilt brother Alexey?
Over the years, the story of the four Romanov sisters and their tragic end in a basement at Ekaterinburg in 1918 has clouded our view of them, leading to a mass of sentimental and idealized hagiography. They are too often seen merely as set dressing, the beautiful but innocuous background to the bigger, more dramatic story of their parents – Russia’s last Tsar and Tsarina, Nicholas and Alexandra. They are perceived as lovely, desirable and living charmed lives. But the truth is somewhat different.
For most of their short lives the four Romanov sisters were beautiful birds in a gilded cage, shut away at their palaces at Tsarskoe Selo or Livadia as a reaction to the fear of terrorist attacks on the Imperial Family. In reality the sisters had few friends and were largely cut off from the real world outside and the normal life experiences of other girls – that is, until everything changed in 1914. Suddenly, with Russia’s entry into the war, the girls had to grow up fast.
In a deliberate echo of the title of Chekhov’s play, Four Sisters sets out to capture the joy as well as the insecurities and poignancy of those young lives against the backdrop of the dying days of late Imperial Russia, drawing on previously unseen and unpublished letters, diaries and memoirs of the period.
The book is also the subject of a forthcoming documentary ‘Russia’s Lost Princesses’, which the author has been working on with Silver River Productions for BBC2. A transmission date will be announced soon.
A well-written gem … a fascinating, in-depth and comprehensively researched study of the
Rappaport is a consummate and compelling biographer who can always be relied on to put humanity into history, painting the past in all its dramatic detail but placing people at the forefront of her penetrating portraits.
Lancashire Evening Post
Four Sisters excels at re-creating the claustrophobic atmosphere of Alexandra's mother love …with her sure knowledge, mastery of surviving primary sources and enthusiasm for her subject …it is a study in unity and demonstrates resoundingly the strength of family ties.
Poignant [and] well written … Rappaport's sensitive portrayal of the doomed sisters draws the reader into an attachment to each one.
Mail on Sunday
Rrappaport is insightful in her analysis of Alexandra's vulnerability and … [and] illuminates the
precise influence of Grigory Rasputin … An astoundingly intimate tale of domestic life lived in the crucible of power.
It is astonishing how ill suited to power the family generally was. They were reticent, polite, apologetic, even somewhat mundane. In the end, they appear as dignified in death as they were ill prepared for life…Four Sisters shows the warmth and spirit of a much pilloried family.
Evocative and beautifully researched and told, this is narrative history at its best.
Rappaport …offers readers the most authoritative account yet of the Grand Duchesses [and] paints a vivid picture of their lives in the dying days of the Romanov dynasty.
A powerful new biography [that] firmly establishes the long-neglected Romanov children on centre stage … Compassionate, sensitive and exhaustively researched, Four Sisters is a profoundly moving book that does OTMA the service they so richly deserve.
Although this is familiar terrain in terms of historical biographies, the author achieves a rare feat in depicting the Grand Duchesses as complex and fascinating individuals in their own right. Meticulously researched and filled with new information, this book presents the untold and gripping stories of their lives for the first time in print.
Compellingly readable, meticulously researched and deeply moving, Four Sisters gives these young women a voice, and allows their story to resonate for readers almost a century after their death.
A very sad read …but a very authoritative, superbly written one. Anybody with the slightest interest in the Romanovs, or the era, will ignore this volume at their peril.
Royal historian John van der Kiste, Bookbag blog
Helen Rappaport's book, meticulously referenced and indexed, may well now see the curtain coming down on the whole Romanov story. This is perhaps the last untold piece of the jigsaw, but what a huge piece it is that Helen has carved with Four Sisters, and what an incredible experience it has been to walk alongside Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia.
Dovegreyreader book blog
Brings [the sisters] to life in a new way which, while making us love them, also makes us sorrow for them even more.
Random Jottings book blog
Rappaport brings a female sensibility to [the story] … her aim is to give individuality and identity back to each of the four sisters …[she] has breathed posthumous life into them.
Lady Bountifull book blog
An excellent biography. Impressively researched, with enough endnotes and references to satisfy the most demanding scholar, the book also manages to be a real page-turner. Quite an achievement, and highly recommended.'
Shiny New Books blog
I was enthralled by Rappaport’s book … an often harrowing read that haunted me for days afterwards and underlined the enormous waste of life involved in the birthing of modern Europe and a definite must read for anyone with even a passing interest in the period.
Madame Guillotine book blog
It is clear that Helen Rappaport is both passionate and very knowledgeable about her subject, and she has recreated the life of this family so well.
Random Things through My Letterbox blog
For Q&As with Helen about the book
and her writing, go to:
To read an extract from the book, featured in Parade magazine
For a feature in Maclean's magazine go to:
The Romanov Sisters was selected by PARADE magazine as one of its '20 of the Summer's Best Books' and by PEOPLE magazine for its Summer Reading List.
Read " The Romanov Sisters" and weep.
Rappaport, with a light hand and admiring eyes, allows the four Grand Duchesses to grow on us as they grow up.
Christian Science Monitor
Nicholas and Alexandra’s daughters get a biography worthy of their fate.
Macleans Magazine, Canada
Rappaport captures sections of letters and diary entries to showcase the sisters’ thoughtfulness and intelligence. Readers will be swept up in the author’s leisurely yet informative narrative as she sheds new light on the lives of the four daughters
A gossipy, revealing story of the doomed Russian family’s fairy tale life told by an expert in the field.
What also comes through quite clearly is the great love and devotion each of the Romanov family members felt for each other, despite living through the harshest of circumstances. The haunting cover photograph of the Romanov sisters will draw readers, and the extensive bibliography will aid those who want to learn more.
Not only is it one of my few five-star reads so far this year, it will probably become one of my favorite Romanov books of all time. Rappaport is a brilliant writer and researcher. She has accomplished what I did not think was possible – taught me many new things about life in Imperial Russia, about the lives of these four young women and why I should care about them and given me an eerily real sense of that long-ago time.
Historical Fiction Notebook blog
The Romanov Sisters is a dense, wonderfully researched book capable of thrilling long time Romanov fans while introducing new readers to their secrets.
River City Reading blog
I have not ... read a book that so grabbed me and kept me reading late into the night. Poignant, insightful, well written, The Romanov Sisters should be required reading for anybody studying the history of Russia.
Feathered Quill Book Reviews blog
Rappaport has written the definitive biography of four young women who made a profound impact on their family and country during their short lives.
Royal Historian blog
Romanov Sisters] would be especially appreciated by young women scholars who so often are searching for a female perspective during any time in history.
Ivory Owl reviews blog
Here, [the Romanov sisters] are no longer intangible, abstract figures in a history book; they are people. … Probably the most compelling book about the Romanov monarchy that I've read.
Lovely Bookshelf blog
See the trailer for the US audio book of
The Romanov Sisters, beautifully narrated
by Xe Sands
See a clip from the
BBC2 documentary based on
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