When I was a kid my mom took me to see the movie Nicholas and Alexandra at the Bijou Theater in Battle Creek, MI. She knew my love of history and the story fascinated her, especially Rasputin and Anastasia. At the end of the movie she covered my eyes when the royal family was shot. For some reason that has always stuck in my head.
Robert Massie is, well, a giant in terms of historical writers. I actually wore out my copy of Castles of Steel, it is that good. This book falls somewhere between a history book and a true crime saga. After all, the Romanov family was never tried for crimes, they were brutally murdered. When I saw this book on my Amazon feed, I knew I had to pick it up.
It starts with the crime itself, which pulls you in. The strange, if not bizarre treatment of the bodies was compelling as well. Massie is masterful at giving you the historical context that is do desperately needed to understand the events.
Slowly what emerges is how the bodies were eventually found and recovered, and the impact of the Cold War and petty academics that played a part in identifying the remains. This was a story that the public knew very little about.
Suddenly the book takes a hard turn into the rumors of the survivors, namely Anastasia. I was surprised to learn that one woman claiming to be the princess lived out her years near me, in Charlottesville, Virginia. The courtroom battles over her DNA were long, but entirely necessary. Having read Massie’s other books, I knew that he was taking me as a reader on a long journey – and that parts of it were convoluted. I was surprised that there were so many members of the Romanov family that were spared the violence of the Red Revolution.
As a true crime book, this is pretty intriguing to read but you may find the parts on “Anastasia” lacking, since it feels her only crime was lying about who she was. As a history book, it is outstanding. This book is solidly researched and well worth picking up. Five out of five stars.
Now I need to go to the Netflix series, The Last Czars. Curse you Robert Massie – you are making me explore this more.