Saturday, October 23, 2010

[Review] Anastasia's Secret by Susanne Dunlap

Title: Anastasia' Secret
Author: Susanne Dunlap
Publication: 25 October 2010 (Australia)
Publisher: Penguin
Review Copy: PB, review copy (Thanks to Penguin!)
Pages: 330
Series: Standalone
My Rating:

The Romanov family have been ousted from the imperial palace by the Bolsheviks and exiled to Siberia. Life as a privileged member of the Russian Royalty has come to a shattering end.

As the debate about their future rages within the ranks of the newly empowered, Anastasia, youngest daughter of the Tsar Nicholas, discovers love – and with it all the secrets and danger this brings into her strange new life.

Will the strength of that love be enough to save Anastasia from her tragic fate? What happened in the last days of the Romanov family? And did Russia's last princess live in love after all?

Inspired by the masteries that have long surrounded the last days of the Romanov family, Susanne Dunlap's new novel is a haunting vision of the life – and imagined love story – of Russia's last princess.

My thoughts: 

Forgive me if any of my historical references are inaccurate! I'm not much of a stickler for history!

          In Anastasia’s Secret, the plot follows Anastasia Nikolaevna Romanova—the youngest Grand Duchess of the Russian Royal Family—as she, and her family, goes through the events during her childhood that are still so famous to this day. If you are aware of the events that follow the fall of the Russian “old traditions” and the Imperial family, you’ll have an edge-up on what happens in the novel, because it does follow it quite well, to my understanding.

          First up, Ms. Dunlap graciously begins with a few reference pages with characters' names, and brief descriptions on each. There are also some explanations as to the different "classes" of that society, and how names are formed in Russia: all proving to be quite helpful during my reading of the novel.

          The characters, while many, as is made instantaneously apparent when opening the first page to see a whole plethora of the descriptions of individuals' names, are relatively easy to keep up with. Each character has nicknames and such, which assist in remembering each of them. I, myself, really liked Mashka (Marie, the 3rd born), Sasha (Mikhailovich, the guard, Ana’s love interest) and, of course, Anastasie (Anastasia). The romance between Sasha and Anastasia was so sweet, but at times a bit frustrating, because their love could never have been truly realised. While in history, there was not a "Sasha"--he is Dunlap's creation--this did not make his existence (or non-existence) any less magical or tragic.

          I really enjoyed the writing style of the novel. Dunlap did a nice job of being quite clear in description, and every action, every bit of dialogue, to me, was well executed. While some may argue on this point, I was intrigued with everything this book had to offer. There was romance, there was truthfulness (due to the fact that this is, in fact, a re-telling, or Dunlap’s interpretation of events), mystery, tragedy . . . As a person who has not been privy to extensive knowledge on Russia during the WWI period, I was able to appreciate and remain enchanted and hopelessly entranced by Anastasia’s Secret. I was glad that I was able to follow the storyline with ease.

          One thing that I thought did not work very well was the ending. I did not believe Dunlap dealt with it very well. SPOILER? The end of the narrative (Anastasie's voice) is one of hope as she and her family embark on towards Yekaterinburg. Then, Anastasia seems to finalise the story with conveying her undying love for Sasha, even when she dies. Aaand then we have an Epilogue. While a nice way to save little children from reading something "first-hand" and therefore more personal and violent, the recount-style telling of their deaths pales in comparison to what Dunlap could have done with it.

          Anastasia’s Secret is full of intrigue, romance, and, as a semi-fictional retelling of what is—and will always be—a devastating, tragic historical event, Dunlap has done a fantastic job with keeping both authenticity and a heart-wrenching romance throughout her novel.

I was very small the first time someone told me the story of the day I was born. There were no terrible storms. No comets flew across the sky. Mama had an easy birth--I was the fourth child, so she was used to it. All that happened was that my father left the palace and went for a long walk alone in the gardens at Peterhof. He probably smoked while he walked. He enjoyed cigarettes and often gave them to us as a treat when we were older. He had to compose himself so that he would be able to smile and tell my mother he was glad that he had a fourth daughter instead of the long wished-for son, a tsarevich to continue the Romanov line. A tsarevich to continue three hundred years of history.
     But three years later Alexei was born, and everyone was happy.
(p. 3, ch. 1)
Perhaps the most extraordinary time was in the summer, though, when we took the imperial train to Mogilev to visit Papa and Alexei at the front. It wasn't really the front, in that there was no fighting nearby. But occasionally we could hear the distant guns, like thunder.
(p. 97, ch. 11)
Live in Australia?
Fishpond | Readings | Dymocks | Angus & Robertson | Borders | The Nile

Live elsewhere?
Amazon | The Book Depository

I am in no way affiliated with the above sites, nor with Dunlap or publisher. I do not receive any money for reviewing or linking.

Anastasia's Secret at Penguin
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ALPHA Reader | Book Couture

Learn more about Anastasia's Secret and read more reviews at Goodreads

Other books by this author:
Susanne's YA debut, The Musician's Daughter. I'm definitely going to be picking this one up. I'm glad I discovered this historical author!!
Murder and lovefrom the halls of Vienna’s imperial family to a perilous gypsy camp

Amid the glamour of Prince Nicholas Esterhazy’s court in 18th-century Vienna, murder is afoot. Or so fifteen-year-old Theresa Maria is convinced when her musician father turns up dead on Christmas Eve, his valuable violin missing, and the only clue to his death a strange gold pendant around his neck . . .
Ms. Dunlap's next novel, In the Shadow of the Lamp, due for release April 12, 2011!
A love story to savor, and a fascinating behind-the-scenes imagining of the woman who became known as "the lady with the lamp." 

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