Genre: Historical Fiction
Setting: Jumping back and forth in time from 1917-1970. Mainly set in Russia, New York, and Germany.
***I received an eARC copy of I Was Anastasia from the publisher, Doubleday Books, via NetGalley***
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Review: A jumpy, hard to follow read with a fabulous ending.
I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon tells the fascinating story of Anastasia Romanov, and tries to answer the question of whether or not the real-life person of Anna Anderson was really, truly Anastasia.
Told in a back and forth way, we see Anastasia as her father’s regime falls, and as she and her family are held captive. We also have a complicated time line with Anna Anderson, the woman who states that she is Anastasia, and her story works backwards towards the moment of truth, in that basement in Ekaterinburg, where the Romanov family was executed in 1918.
I liked the dual time line stories, as Anastasia’s works forward and Anna’s works backwards, and I honestly am not sure how else Ariel Lawhon could’ve told this story and kept it suspenseful. I found Anna’s timeline, the one working backwards, difficult to follow. Lawhon would have a scene and then a few pages later have a scene that was several months prior to the scene we just read, and this went on for all of Anna’s chapters. It was tough for me to get through some of these sections, as I couldn’t quite follow all of the action and kept getting confused as to who was who. But now that I’m finished with the book, I see how important writing the book in this backwards way was, and I am not sure that there is a better way to tell this story.
The big question is, is Anna really Anastasia, or just an imposter? This question kept me hooked to the story, and as it unravels, we learn more and more about the characters and history. I found my opinions changing throughout the book, at times liking Anna, and other times not liking her at all. I loved the sections that focused on Anastasia, and her life in captivity. There are some violent scenes here, ones that made me gasp with their cruelty.
I think this would be a good book for book clubs, as readers will have different opinions about Anna, and there’s a lot to discuss here, from the way the book is written, to the characters and history.
It took me until almost the end of the book before it really started clicking and working for me, and when I finished I Was Anastasia I realized that it was a book that I definitely would like to re-read at some point. I definitely recommend this book for those who enjoy back-and-forth in time narratives, and for those who enjoy reading about Russian history.
Bottom Line: Hard to get through some of the jumping time lines, but the ending was spectacular.