Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Lost Crown by Sarah Miller

Genre: Historical fiction
Rating: ***
Pages: 448, 412 of that being the actual story
Olga, the bookish one. Tatiana, the beauty. Maria, the sweetheart. Anastasia, the clown. The daughters of Tsar Nicholas II have always lived in a gilded bubble of luxury. But that bursts when a gunshot sparks World War I. Now Papa has to leave the family behind to command the military. Their palace is converted to a hospital and the two oldest sisters work as nurses. Meanwhile, Mama turns to a holy man called Grigori Rasputin to cope with their brother Aleksei's illness.
Then Russia is shaken by something more deadly than the war abroad. The people are suspicious of Rasputin and tired of the tsar's rule. Revolution erupts. Now the Romanov family are prisoners in their own home. As war wages all around them, the sisters must rely on their own strength and each other to get them through.
I've always been interested in the OTMA sisters. Anastasia usually gets the most attention, probably thanks to that 1997 Warner Bros. cartoon. I liked seeing the other girls get a chance to tell their story. It does get confusing since it's all written in first person. I kept flipping back to the beginning of the chapter to remember who was talking. Then there's the language. The book is peppered with Russian words and phrases, so I used the glossary a lot until I began to pick up on some of the common ones.

     "I think so." I hear the swish of her short hair against the pillow as she nods, then nothing. "Please try not to worry, dushka. God will watch over us."
     "Konechno, Tatya. But now Lenin is watching too."
Tatya is Tatiana. They all have nicknames. Maria is Mashka. Anastasia might be Nastya or Shvybzik. Their brother Aleksei could be called Alyosha, Sunbeam, or Baby. This can be confusing if you don't pay attention.
The story begins in 1914 and ends in July of 1918. Around 200 of the 400ish pages take place in those last seven months. A single chapter might last a day or two months. Sometimes it feels blurry, like we're gliding over a year and checking in on the girls once a month. Other times it drags on forever. Let's face it, there's not a lot of action when you're under house arrest in Siberia.
But if you can get past that, there's a lot of powerful emotion packed into this book. The sisters don't fight the way you'd expect from a family kept in close quarters. Tatiana in particular misses her nursing duties and finds purpose helping her mother and brother with their poor health. After their lives of luxury are ripped from them they find joy in the little things-an open window, their dogs, fresh baked bread, and the fact that they're still together.
I learned things I never knew about the Romanovs, like how Olga had a small gun she kept hidden throughout their captivity. Or how Anastasia had the honorary title 'Chieftain of All Fireman." Now I want to learn more.
The Lost Crown is a rich, though complex, tale of family, faith, and loyalty. 


  1. Sounds very good! I'll try to get my hands on it ASAP at my local library (which, unfortunately, seems to be strangely lacking in all the books I want to read.)

  2. Yes! I just finished reading it a few minutes ago. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, and amazing. It made me cry. The whole time I was thinking, No, these beautiful girls can't be the same ones who were shot in the head and bayoneted, it can't be. But they were, and I think that makes their words, thoughts, and deeds all the more poignant. It's especially heart-breaking the way they dream of marriage, babies, and all sorts of things the reader knows they will never get to do or have.