I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon
Published: March 27/18. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Reviewed by Kirsten Lowe
It is one of history’s most infamous execution/assassination – Tsar Nicholas II and his family being led into that dark basement in the middle of the night by Bolsheviks soldiers, claiming that they were going to take a photograph. Instead, the soldiers told the Tsar and his family that they were to be condemned to death before opening fire. All were claimed to be dead, but that all changed with the appearance of a woman named Anna Anderson who claimed the impossible – that she herself was the surviving youngest daughter of the last Tsar of Russia.
Lawhon takes the reader on a unique journey using two story lines. While reading this book, readers will either enjoy or become annoyed by the storytelling. While Anastasia Romanov’s story is told chronologically, the story of Anna Anderson is told in reverse (thankfully the chapters labeled with the time era). Other than that, the storytelling was unique with a ton of historical facts mixed with fiction.
It is evident that Lawhon did a great deal of research prior to the writing of this book, and in the Authors Note, she discusses her research, why she combined some characters, her inspiration for the reverse storytelling and what inspired her to write this book. I normally skim over the Authors Note, but in this case it helped a lot and is definitely worth reading.
The question about what whether Anastasia Romanov survived the firing squad in the basement has fascinated people for decades. Due to the lack of DNA testing that was available at the time and the unknown location of the burial site helped many who stepped forward to claim that she was the sole survivor. Of course, through the passing of time, DNA testing has been conducted and grave site excavations have given a clear answer, but the chilling thought about what happened to the Romanov family that fateful night still lingers, and will continue to inspire further stories of the Tsar and his family.