Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Anastasia's Secret by Susanne Dunlap and the Alexander Palace

This historical novel follows the teenage years of Anastasia Nikolaevna Romanova, daughter of the last Tsar of Russia. Anastasia undergoes many changes physically and emotionally as she matures during World War I and the Russian Revolution in 1917 that ended her father’s reign and eventually led to the family’s captivity and death. But Dunlap, using her creative license, ends Anastasia’s story with a window of hope, albeit a small one, that Nastya (Anastasia’s nickname) may have survived.

The focus of Anastasia’s Secret is two-fold: historical accuracy and romance. Dunlap did extensive research and nearly every character is verifiable, the most notable exception being Sasha, a soldier who guards the Romanovs and falls in love with Nastya. The romance is the duchess’ great secret. However, being so young and just a girl, Anastasia is able to overhear much or witness things she wasn’t supposed to know about. This ease-dropping attribute allowed Dunlap to feed the reader historical information. I didn’t care for this method, personally, and wished the information could have been more seamlessly worked into the plot. We get a sense for important events taking place outside the palace, like the war and revolution, but only enough to whet the appetite. I wanted more details but I suspect that for young adult readers Dunlap offered enough information. The text did get a bit dry and I think that stems from the way, as I mentioned, that information is presented.

The romance was, I felt (and I don’t mean this to sound so negative) completely unrealistic. It’s possible and even likely the Romanov girls had crushes on soldiers (hey, I married one!). But I doubt any of them could carry off a romance like Sasha and Nastya do in the novel. The situation is so dangerous that for the couple to have clandestine meetings is sweet but not likely. So, a little suspension of beliefs is necessary but again I suspect that for young readers it’s not a problem.

I do wish we knew more about Sasha. Besides his romantic interest in Nastya it was hard to get to know him. I did like the family members, especially the sister Mashka. There were so many other characters I felt lost at times. I think this reflects Dunlap’s incredible research and it may have been hard for her to let go of some of that info. I think this text would have benefitted from a closer examination of a few characters rather than crowding the text with so many. That’s just my take.

Little Red Flags: The romance does get intense. Though the language is not terribly graphic about sex the novel is very sexually charged as the two lovers meet time and again. There’s only one violent scene that is brief and besides a few lewd comments by soldiers no foul language. 

You have to check this out. If you have any interest in the Romanovs, Russian history or royalty in general, check out the pictures at this website. It’s fantastic and I will be looking at it for some time.
Mountain Hall: The indoor slide mentioned in the book
Anastasia Information 
Publisher: Bloomsbury, 2010      Pages: 320     Source: IC Public Library    
Rating: 3 Stars          If this was a movie: PG-13

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the links! My daughter and I read a different book about Anastasia recently and I know we'll enjoy looking at the pictures!

    Buffy @ SituationsWhereYouMayNeedIt