Book Reviews

Book Review: The Last Romanov.

The Romanov dynasty was the last ruling family of the Russian Empire. The House of Romanov ruled Russia from 1613 to the February 1917 revolution. Its insignia of double eagle was on every official document and feared by all.

All tsars had German consorts, except Alexandre III, and the World War I hurt their good reputation.

In 1917 Nicholas II abdicated under duress, in favour of his brother Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovitch who declined to accept the throne, thus ending the dynasty after three centuries.

In 1918, the Bolsheviks shot Nicholas II and his entire family and four loyal servants in the Epatiev House in Yekaterinburg. Their remains were unearthed in 1991 and painstakingly identified by DNA tests, then ceremonially buried.

In the west, the Russian Empire and its successor USSR were never treated to a fair historical and contemporary view and were always portrayed in a negative light.

Dora Mossanen, born in Israel, raised in Iran, and now a naturalized American, has accomplished a remarkably deep research about the Romanov dynasty.

This novel starts with Darya Spiridova who was born with an opal eye and special gift to predict the future.

After the death of her parents, she was taken to the Tsarina because of her extraordinary natural talents.

The author lovingly describes the luxurious but refined lifestyle of the last Romanovs, revealing that all members of the family spoke French, English, and Russian.

They conversed in Russian with their servants, but in French and English with ambassadors and important foreign personalities.

By all accounts, the last Romanov family to rule the Empire was beer cruel as many of their predecessors were.

Darya falls in love with a talented Jewish painter, and meets with him in secret, several times. At the time, Jews in Russia were tolerated, but as a community were never treated fairly ad with dignity.

Darya led two lives, one “private”, and the other “in the service of the Romanov family”.

Romanov’s son Alexei suffered from haemophilia and Darya arranged for Rasputin, a Russian orthodox priest with supernatural healing powers, to cure the sickly child, but in the process this priest becomes a political burden to the family.

During the revolution Darya remains friends with Avram, the Jewish painter, sacrificing things important to her and to the benefit of the imperial family.

This remarkable historical novel brings together, magic and history in a spectacular way using “flashbacks”.

It is lucidly written, flows well, and of interest to anyone interested in European, more specifically in Russian history.

Darya was born in 1887 and survived the Revolution by bribing guards. She died in 1991, surviving the summary execution of the Romanovs and lived to tell the sad story.

Highly recommended.

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