Ariel Lawhon’s I Was Anastasia has given me my first introduction to Anastasia and the Romanov family outside of the animated film named after Anastasia I saw once in theaters as a child, and I have enjoyed learning about the history surrounding the Romanovs, their captivity and Anna Anderson’s identity.
Told backwards from Anna’s perspective and in normal progression from Anastasia’s, the storylines unfold until their timelines converge. This structure keeps readers engaged as well as thinking because it requires another level of thought to keep the events straight. It also carries a certain weight as the anticipation of what readers know comes at the brutal end for Anastasia leaves a feeling of dread in the background. I have learned a lot about these people’s experiences, different as though they stand. Though this book doesn’t fall into an uplifting category, I appreciate how informative and interesting Lawhon has made it.
This book has not only introduced me to the Romanovs and their history but to Russian history as well. Somehow I have not learned much about Russia, and I would like to continue. I have a couple classics lined up for reading next year.
If you read I Was Anastasia and would like to pair it with another book that explores some of Russia’s history, I highly recommend the modern classic A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (my review here). It follows a man under house arrest at a hotel for many years, and it has a great cast of characters and story. This would also pair well with a viewing of Casablanca.