Wednesday, May 2, 2012
The Last Romanov by Dora Levy Mossanen
Darya Borodina is one hundred and four years old, living in the old Russian Entertainment Palace among the ruins, haunted by her life and her time with the Romanovs. Born of royal parents who were close friends with the Tsar and Tsarina of Russia, Darya lost her parents as a teen and was brought to live in the royal household. There she became a companion to the royal children, the four Duchesses and the heir apparent. Darya had healing powers which were important since the heir had hemophilia and could die at any moment.
We watch royal life through Darya's eyes. Drawn to the arts, she and the Empress create an artistic salon to showcase the talents of Russia's sculptors, artists and ballet masters. We see the strife and pain that comes as Russia starts to awake and decide that being ruled by the royal aristocracy will not work. Darya is torn between these two worlds. She is loyal to the royal family, but madly in love with one of the artists, a Jewish painter she knows she can never acknowledge publicly. Through him, she starts to see the turmoil that will soon tear the country apart.
After the Revolution and the assassination of the Royal Family, what keeps Darya alive is her belief that the heir was not killed that horrible day with the rest of the family; that her magic portions kept him alive. She spends decades searching for him, and now she receives word that 'the last Romanov' has been found. This starts her final journey to determine the truth once and for all.
The Last Romanov is a marvelous book. Steeped in history and full of the haunting brooding history of the Russian Empire, the reader is transported to another time and place. Mossanen has created an interesting heroine in Darya to portray both sides of the Revolution and the pain that the conflict between the sides brought to both. This book is recommended to historical fiction readers and those interested in the strong women or Russian history.