Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Rasputin's Daughter

It's a truth universally acknowledged that I am a big Russia fan right? So when I heard from NPR that there was a book coming out that was a historical fiction piece told from the point of view of Rasputin's daughter Masha, I had to read it.

This book is told after Rasputin is killed (by poisoning, stabbing, AND drowning) when Masha and her sister are sent to live with the Tsar and his family. This is when the Russian Revolution is happening and the Romanovs are sequestered in one of their palaces basically waiting for a way to flee the country, or for their deaths.

Masha spends the majority of her time with the tsaravich (or crown prince), Alexei. Alexei was a hemophiliac and the tsarina (his mother, Alexandra) basically went bat-shit crazy trying anything to heal her son. When Rasputin was alive this meant that she had him visiting the palace all of the time to try to heal Alexei. After Rasputin died, she had Masha take over.

Masha doesn't kid anyone and knows that she does not have the same mystical powers that she believes her father had. But she does tell Alexei stories to keep his mind from the fact that they will probably all be murdered. They tell tales of what he would do if he had never had hemophilia and she tells him the tales her father told her of his travels and revelations. As things become more and more dire for the Romanovs, Masha and Alexei become closer and closer emotionally and physically.

And then the inevitable happens.

The book is interesting and had me hanging on to what was happening, especially towards the end when things were hitting the fan for the Romanov family. I have this picture of Russian life in my head that is by no means acurate, and to read about the tsaravich day dreaming about Buffalo Bill Cody and Rasputin driving a car just kind of boggles my mind. I also had no idea that Masha went on to be a circus act!

If you are looking for something that feels Russian without the denseness of a classic piece of Russian Lit, I would suggest this book, but it isn't a favorite of mine. My biggest complaint is that the narrator seemed too detached from what was happening around her, especially with Alexei. I wanted more from her. Things were too loose and I am not sure what the Masha of the book took away from her life experience. A bit of a let down, but still interesting.

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