This new historical novel by Carolly Erickson focuses on Tatiana Romanov, the second-oldest daughter of Tsar Nicolas II of Russia. Even though the entire Romanov family was assassinated in 1918 during the Bolshevik revolution, this novel explores what might have happened had Tatiana lived.
The novel is narrated by Daria Gradov, who is actually Tatiana, or Tania, as an old woman. She reminisces about her life growing up as a Russian Grand Duchess, describing her love for her beautiful and troubled mother, her fear and dislike of the family matriarch, her relationship with her siblings, and the various loves in her life, including the handsome young soldier Michael Gradov, whom she meets when she serves as a nurse during World War I.
As a young girl, Tania befriends a peasant woman named Daria, through her learning about the extreme poverty and discontent spreading across Russia, which ultimately results in the rise of the Bolsheviks and the abdication of her father.
While many of the people and events in Tatiana's story are pure fiction, Erickson's novel does have touches of historical fact in it. The competitiveness between Tania and her older sister, Olga, is well known, as is the family's concern over the welfare of young Alexei, the tsarevich, who had hemophilia. Tania, her mother and Olga all served as nurses during the war. Erickson also focuses on the close relationship that the Tsarina Alexandra had with Rasputin, which ultimately contributed to the family's demise.
Tania is portrayed as a spirited, intelligent girl far too mature for her years and far too ahead of her time. There are many occurrences in the novel where it seems she is the only sane and sensible person in her family; many other characters, particularly her siblings, who have an important place in Russian history, get short shrift here.
What I liked about this novel is that it focused on a Romanov other than Anastasia, arguably the most famous member of the Romanov family. But as I like my historical fiction to be more history than fiction, I found the novel wanting. Having said that, it's a highly readable and engaging story that breathes life into a woman whose life was far too brief.