I Was Anastasia

“She has been many things through the years, but helpless is not one of them.” ~ Ariel Lawhon

A few months ago, my mom and I were watching season 5 of The Crown when the story of the Romanov family was told. Inspired to learn more about the details leading up to their horrific murder and the woman who claimed to be Anastasia Romanov for almost six decades, I purchased a copy of I Was Anastasia and began listening to this riveting tale.

Russia, July 17, 1918: Under the direct orders of Vladimir Lenin, the Bolshevik secret police force Anastasia Romanov, along with the entire imperial family, into a damp basement in Siberia, where they face a merciless firing squad. None survive. At least, that’s what the executioners have always claimed.

“Who wants to just survive? Wouldn’t you rather live?” ~ Ariel Lawhon

Germany, February 17, 1920: A young woman bearing an uncanny resemblance to Anastasia Romanov is pulled shivering and senseless from a canal. Refusing to explain her presence in the freezing water or even acknowledge her rescuers, she is taken to the hospital, where an examination reveals that her body is riddled with countless horrific scars. When she finally does speak, this frightened, mysterious young woman claims to be the Russian Grand Duchess Anastasia. But is she telling the truth?

As rumors circulate through European society that the youngest Romanov daughter has survived the massacre at Ekaterinburg, old enemies and new threats are awakened.

“It’s a lie, of course. Anna does not forget. Her memory is as sound and solid as a gun safe. And just as impenetrable.” ~ Ariel Lawhon

Historically accurate, with a few fictitious additions, I Was Anastasia flawlessly reveals the story of the Romanov family through the eyes of their teenage daughter, Anastasia, while also giving readers a chance to hear Anna Anderson’s account. Written in a nonlinear timeline, the narrative was often confusing since Anna’s perspective is told backward — each chapter started at a certain year and then worked back to fill in the details. Nevertheless, by the novel’s end (especially the Author’s Note), I understood why Ariel Lawhon wrote it this way and applaud her for it.

A fascinating historical fiction novel full of drama, romance, and mystery; I really enjoyed how I Was Anastasia progressed. Historical accounts are interesting to read, but there’s something so enlightening about reading these events as a novel rather than a Wikipedia page. While I connected more with Anastasia (swooning over Thomas), Anna was equally intriguing, causing me to wonder if she could truly be the Grand Duchess.

“Every woman trades on something. Beauty is easy enough to come by. So is charm. Talent won’t set you apart. Neither will intelligence… But royalty? Now that’s something special.” ~ Ariel Lawhon

Was Anna Anderson who she claimed to be, or will she finally be exposed for the imposture she was? Countless others have rendered their verdict. Now it is your turn! I Was Anastasia is the perfect book for historical fiction lovers or anyone looking to understand the legend/myth behind the Romanovs and their horrific demise.


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