Thursday, February 11, 2021

A Book Review: Anastasia - The Last Grand Duchess

     Hi! Today I'm breaking my usual "mold" of only sticking to Week of Book Memes posts and sharing another book review with you. I know it's a little unexpected, but this book was so fun and amazing that I had to write about it right now!

    This review has no spoilers.

    (The discussion questions will have spoilers, since they are supposed to be used after reading the book.)

Title: Anastasia: The Last Grand Duchess, Russia, 1914

Author: Carolyn Meyer

Series: This is part of Scholastic's Royal Diaries series, but can be read as a standalone novel.

Targeted Age Range: 9+

Synopsis: Thirteen-year-old Anastasia is the youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II, ruler of Russia. Anastasia is used to a life of luxury; her major concerns are how to get out of her detested schoolwork to play in the snow, go ice-skating, or have picnics. She wears diamonds and rubies, and every morning her mother tells her which matching outfit she and her three sisters shall wear that day. It's a fairy-tale life—until everything changes with the outbreak of war between Russia and Germany. As Russia enters WWI, hunger and poverty among the peasants, and soon they are not pleased with their ruler. While the tsar is trying to win a war and save the country, the citizens are turning on the royal family. When her father and the rest of her family are imprisoned by the Bolsheviks, suddenly Anastasia understands what this war is costing the people. In the pages of her diary, Anastasia chronicles the wealth and luxury of her royal days, as well as the fall from power and her uncertain fate.
Language: A couple instances of name-calling. Expressions such as "stupid", "fat", and "ugly" are used, as well as the French and German words "faugh" and "pfui" to express annoyance. Anastasia uses the frank terms "bosoms" and "derrieres", which mortify her older sisters.

Violence: Assassination attempts and war activities are mentioned, as well as killed men, horrific accidents, and injured soldiers. Anastasia's brother Alexei suffers from hemophilia. Characters are imprisoned and knocked unconscious.

Romance/Sexual Stuff: Though Anastasia does not experience romance herself, she has great fun snooping for and writing about her older sisters' love affairs. It's mentioned that the oldest of her sisters, Olga, was briefly put in negotiations for an arranged marriage. Flirting and possible kissing are mentioned.

Spiritual Elements: Though not the focus of the story, religion seems to be a very prominent thing in the Romanovs' lives. Orthodox customs, praying, and Mass are mentioned frequently. Anastasia notes both the religious and political conflicts that come with her mother supporting Grigory Rasputin. Throughout the story Rasputin speaks of various, fulfilling "prophecies" and it's implied that he was able to bring a mortally wounded person back to life.

Anastasia's father gives her the nickname shvibzik (imp) and a memory she writes about mentions the mythical sea god Neptune.

Magic: None

References: Various historical events, places, and figureheads are mentioned, as well as hobble skirts and Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture.

Other Issues: Anastasia mentions her parents deciding not to tell their subjects about Alexei's hemophilia. Anastasia is also very mischievious and often eavesdrops and sneaks around to satisfy her curiosity. Once she pretends to smoke one of her father's cigarettes (before getting caught).

Where To Buy: Anastasia: The Last Grand Duchess is available on Amazon, eBay, Barnes & Noble, Alibris, Abebooks, Book Depository, and Better World Books. There is also an audiobook version via Audible.

My Age Range: I think kids aged 11 and up would enjoy this book the most.

Read Aloud: I think this could be a good read aloud.

My Opinion: I think I may have found this gem at a used book sale, or through a memory of how I discovered it is really fuzzy. What I do remember is absolutely loving the story, and reading it over and over because Anastasia Romanov and her family seemed so real to me.
    I credit this book for fueling my interest in finding out more about Russia, especially in the pre-World War II era. The way the author portrayed Anastasia was very relatable and realistic to me, and I enjoyed this peek at the opulence and later dwindling power of the Romanov dynasty. I liked that the author made me see the Romanovs not as another name and series of events in world history, but as real people you could root for and compare your own hopes and dreams with. While I resonated the most with the youngest tsarina, all of the other Romanov family members came alive to me through this book, too. Years after I first flipped through the pages I feels as if Anastasia: The Last Grand Duchess gave me a peek into a life and legacy I wouldn't have put much interest in otherwise. I also believe I got more out of reading Gloria Whelan's Angel in the Square and Nadine Brandes' Romanov because I read this book first.
    If you have a love for diary-formatted fiction, letting history come to life through story, or you've already read Angel in the Square or Romanov and want more of the same, maybe this book is the pick for you.

Discussion Questions:

-From her first diary entries, what can you tell about Anastasia as a person? What can you tell about her life as a Grand Duchess?

-Which member of the Romanov family did you find yourself relating to the most? Which member do you think you're most like?

-If you've read Angel in the Square, Romanov, or another book that delves into the Romanovs' history and eventual downfall, how is their portrayal of Anastasia and the other Romanovs the same? How is it different? Compare and contrast using scenes, characters, and concepts from each book.

-After reading this book, what is the impression you got of Russia in the early 1900s? After reading Anastasia's story, has your perspective on the Russian revolution or World War I changed in any way?

-If you could give any character in this book (Anastasia, Alexei, Rasputin, etc.) a piece of advice, who would you choose, and what would you tell them?

    Thank you for looking at Anastasia: The Last Grand Duchess with me. This book is very close to my heart and I hope that you will consider reading it. If you don't think it's for you, please consider recommending the story to someone else you think would be interested.

    Have you read this book already? If so, what did you think about it? If not, would you want to?

    Like always, I'm open to review requests (both for book reviews and author interviews)! To let me know about a novel, series, or author you'd like me to feature, check out my Review Policy page and see if your suggestion lines up with the ones I'm allowing. Then, ask away!

    Join me for tomorrow for my last Week of Book Memes post...


  1. Girl, you're just never gonna stop growing my TBR list, are you? XD I LOVE how when I'm reading your reviews that you always end up convincing me that I NEED TO READ THIS!!!!!!!! It's EPIC!!! I've been soooo interested in learning more about Anastasia and Russia and all!!!!!!

    1. I'm so glad the review was helpful! Thanks as always for stopping by.

  2. I've always found her story fascinating, but I think I'd like a book geared more for adults a little more. :)

    1. Sorry for the late reply! I have not read them but I know Nadine Brandes read some books by Helen Rappaport while researching for her book Romanov. And of course her actual novel Romanov is great too!

      Thanks for stopping by.