Published March 6, 2012
Hardcover, 336 pages
Enchantments is essentially the retelling of the tragic Romanov story – what led up to the execution of Nicolas, the last Tsar of Russia, his wife, Alexandra, their four daughters and only son and heir, Alexei or Alyosha as he is know in this tale. The difference in this story is that it is told through the eyes of Rasputin’s 18-year-old daughter, Masha.
The book begins in 1917 with the death of the infamous Grigory Rasputin, advisor, confidant, mystic, healer, holy man, friend of the Tsarina, Alexandra. Rasputin is the only one who is able to heal Alexei who is a hemophiliac. The condition of Alexei is a carefully guarded secret because should people learn that the Crown Prince could bleed to death from falling down the stairs or a bump on the nose the knowledge would hurry the collapse of the Romanov dynasty. In the hope that Rasputin’s daughter, Masha, has inherited her father’s healing powers, the Tsarina has Masha and her sister move in with the family in their St. Petersburg palace.
Unbeknown to the Romanovs, anger, hate, frustration and desperation are building in the Russian people who are desperate for food. The Tsar is a simple man more interested in his wife and family than governing the country, but it appears as though he is uncaring and the Bolsheviks use this to foment a revolution. Two months later the Tsar is forced to abdicate his throne and the family is placed under house arrest. Masha and Alyosha become very close friends, entertain one another with stories and eventually fall in love despite the difference in their ages. Alyosha is thirteen and Masha is eighteen.
The author describes the slowly gathering terror and dread on the part of the Romanovs as first their pets are killed by revolutionaries and then servants turn against them and treat them with disrespect. The Tsar holds out hope that “someone” will rescue them, but Alyosha believes that they will be killed. He doesn’t want to be the last one alive to witness it. True to his fears, the Bolsheviks murder the entire family and he is the last to be killed.
This historical fiction will appeal to readers who are interested in the early history of the Russian revolution, as well as the Romanov story. However, I didn't particularly like it and cannot recommend it. I have read extensively on the Romanovs and was disappointed in the author's unusual slant to it by imagining a love affair between the Crown Prince and the daughter of Rasputin.
Note: This books is rated V = violence and S = explicit sexual scenes between underaged persons.
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Kathryn Harrison is the author of the memoirs The Kiss and The Mother Knot. She has also written the novels Envy, The Seal Wife, The Binding Chair, Poison, Exposure, and Thicker Than Water; a travel memoir, The Road to Santiago; a biography, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux; and a collection of essays, Seeking Rapture. She lives in New York with her husband, the novelist Colin Harrison, and their children.
Learn more about Kathryn and her work at her website, kathrynharrison.com.
Reviewed by Sandra