Sunday, October 9, 2011

Anastasia's Secret - Susanne Dunlap

Title: Anastasia's Secret
Author: Susanne Dunlap
Publisher: Bloomsbury Books, 2010 (Hardcover)
Length: 330 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Historical Fiction
Started: October 5, 2011
Finished: October 8, 2011

From the inside cover:
For Anastasia Romanov, life as the privileged daughter of Russia's last tsar is about to be torn apart by the bloodshed of revolution. Ousted from the imperial palace when the Bolsheviks seize control of the government, Anastasia and her family are exiled to Siberia. But even while the rebels debate the family's future with agonizing slowness and the threat to their lives grows more menacing, romance quietly blooms between Anastasia and Sasha, a sympathetic young guard she has known since childhood. But will the strength of their love be enough to save Anastasia from a violent death?
Inspired by the mysteries that have long surrounded the last days of the Romanov family, Susanne Dunlap's new novel is a haunting vision of the life-and love story-of Russia's last princess.

I'll admit, I've had this on my radar for some time, mostly because I'm about a month away from giving birth to our daughter whom we've named after the youngest Russian princess/duchess, so anything with the name Anastasia in it tends to capture my attention.

In spite of my love of all things Romanov, this book fell a little flat for me. The premise of the story is that Anastasia had a romantic liaison before her death at the age of 17 (the author imagines a young guard as the boy in question). However the whole situation regarding the romance seemed very unrealistic and implausible. The author sets up the story and atmosphere of turn of the century Russian nicely and you can tell she's really done her research regarding the parts that have a basis in actual history. When it comes to the imagined parts regarding the romance though, it just doesn't seems to fit. Sasha and Anastasia never seem to have a believable reason why they would get together (the author doesn't really have them together often enough to explain why they like each other), but I can almost forgive that seeing as how Anastasia was guarded and sheltered most of her life and I can believe that she would fall for the first boy that she got to know beyond an acquaintance level. However, the other aspects aren't believable either. I can see her slipping away to see Sasha before the family was placed under house arrest during the revolution, but afterwards I don't buy it; the family was heavily guarded and I find it hard to believe that Anastasia was able to be alone with a random solider undetected long enough for hanky panky. That and the fact that people know how Anastasia's story ends, I find it hard to believe that she or her love interest would allow her to meet such an end like Sasha did...and if she really loved anyone in a romantic way I think she would've tried to escape given the chance like in the book. It almost seems as if this story would have been better off as more fiction than historical based, where the author writes it so that Anastasia actually survived and went off into the sunset with said romantic interest and lived happily ever after or however they want to word it.

If you like novels based on the Romanov family, you might want to skip this one. The writing and setting are well done, but the romance angle doesn't really seem plausible at any point, and there are better novels with different plot lines out there that work better as an historical fiction piece.

Thoughts on the cover:
I like the look of the model but probably would've liked if they'd picked someone who actually looked like the real Anastasia. The details like the lace on the dress and the pearl necklace are nice touches though.

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