Focusing on family rather than politics, Helen Rappaport offers readers a glimpse into the lives of the four daughters of the last Tsar of Russia. Growing up in a palace and vacationing on their imperial yacht, the girls lived a privileged, but very sheltered and secluded life.
Reading this book, I was impressed with Rappaport’s extensive research. The book relies heavily on primary sources, including letters and notes the girls sent to family and friends. Many of these notes document exchanges between the girls and their own mother, Alexandra, who was often sick.
Although the author focuses on the four sisters, the book is really about the private lives of the family in general. Often avoiding public events, the family kept their children away from the public eye. Knowing what is going on outside of the palace, I found this to be a fascinating read. As I got to know these four young women, I couldn’t help but dread the inevitable conclusion.
Along similar lines, Claudia Renton recently published a historical biography called, Those Wild Wyndhams: Three Sisters at the Heart of Power. Mary, Madeline and Pamela Wyndham grew up in England during same time period as the Romanov sisters. Again, letters offer insight into the sisters’ interesting lives as they become key figures in the aesthetic movement and develop friendships with numerous influential people of the time. Both of these titles would be great for anyone with an interest in historical biographies featuring prominent women in the early 20th century.