Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov of Russia was a member of the last Imperial family to rule Russia. The Bolsheviks executed her and her entire family in 1918. Anna Anderson surfaced in 1920 claiming to be Anastasia and telling the story of how she alone survived the firing squad that killed the rest of her family. I Was Anastasia is a historical fiction novel with two alternating storylines. One storyline focuses on Anastasia and her family during the days leading up to their execution. The other follows Anna Anderson and her efforts to be legally recognized as Anastasia.
Anastasia’s story is told in a chronological order while Anna’s story works backward. The timelines of the two stories eventually meet in the middle. The characters and the events in Anna’s chapters are hard to keep track of because of the way the novel is structured. Multiple times in Anna’s chapters new characters are introduced and we don’t learn until much later in the book who they are or why we should care about them. This was frustrating and confusing and made it difficult to get invested in her story. I found myself having to power through Anna’s chapters to get back to the more interesting parts about Anastasia. Anastasia’s story I found much more interesting and enjoyable. Her relationships with her family, specifically her younger brother, are sweet.
I picked this book up thinking it would be a fictional story about what would have happened if Anna had actually turned out to be the Grand Duchess Anastasia. What I got was really two stories about two different people. The author wants you to decide for yourself whether Anna and Anastasia are the same person. Since I already knew the real-life outcome of the events, once I realized the book was essentially just retelling Anastasia and Anna’s stories, I became bored with it.
The book did spark an interest in me to do more research into the true events surrounding the Romanov family. It is an interesting story. However, you might come out better picking up a nonfiction account as the story in and of itself is interesting enough without any fictional embellishment.
PUBLICATION DETAILS: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, March 27, 2018, 978-0385541695