A few years ago I watched a documentary named The Last Czar on Netflix. It was wonderful and yet heartbreaking to watch the demise of entire Romanov family. Later on, I even visited Hermitage Museum in Amsterdam that was exhibiting jewels from Imperial Russia. You get awed by the opulence and grandeur and the way they lived. But unfortunately, the family was in peril during Russian Revolution.

Precious stone vase from Hermitage Collection. Each flower can be used as brooch, necklace or hairpin. The exhibition was held during Dec 2019 in Hermitage Museum of Amsterdam

When Nicholas II was enthroned, he was first welcomed by the Russian people but later on accused of causing predicament among peasant class, especially the violent suppression of the 1905 Russian Revolution. Meanwhile, the Tsar had his own family problems when, after four girls, his wife Alexandra gave birth to a boy, who suffered from haemophilia since his childhood. By that time, Alexandra was too old to have another child. The health of Alexei was like a noose hanging around their necks as the struggled to keep their son healthy since he was heir to the throne.

Desperate and helpless, the Empress took refuge in faith and religion and was swayed by a peasant priest named Rasputin. We all know what Rasputin did and how the Empress protected his image till the very end. It was as if he was the only beacon and source of keeping her son alive.

It was a call of a desperate mother who did everything to keep her children safe and yet, in the end, they all faced the assassination. The act was extremely brutal. Some believe that the children were shot by gunfire, yet they survived the gunshots since their corsets were stuffed with jewels and stones. Later on, they were stabbed. The bodies of entire family were thrown away. I won’t go in a political discussion here of what’s right or wrong. All I believe is that the children didn’t deserve such fate.

This week, I finished reading The Last Grand Duchess by Bryn Turnbull.

One of the best books I’ve read in 2022. I am always excited to read a historical fiction and this ones takes you back in time to the last century, during Imperial Russia. I love watching shows and reading books of Imperial Russia and this one is told from the POV of the Grand Duchess, Olga Romanov, first daughter to Czar II and last of Romanov dynasty.

Olga and her sisters had lived a sheltered life yet Olga knew what political decisions were taken around her. We all know historically what happened to the family but it still breaks my heart to read it, knowing the children had to pay the price of their parents’ decision. Despite Tsar taking some wrong actions on his part, he was still a good father and the family refused to abandon each other during the worst of time. They stuck together till the end.

I really admire the way Turnbull has spun a compelling story around historical facts that it keeps you glued to the book.
**Five stars!

Blurb from Goodreads:

This sweeping new novel from the internationally bestselling author of The Woman Before Wallis takes readers behind palace walls to see the end of Imperial Russia through the eyes of Olga Romanov, the first daughter of the last Tsar. 

Grand Duchess Olga Romanov comes of age amid a shifting tide for the great dynasties of Europe. But even as unrest simmers in the capital, Olga is content to live within the confines of the sheltered life her parents have built for and her three sisters: hiding from the world on account of their mother’s ill health, their brother Alexei’s secret affliction, and rising controversy over Father Grigori Rasputin, the priest on whom the Tsarina has come to rely. Olga’s only escape from the seclusion of Alexander Palace comes from her aunt, who takes pity on her and her sister Tatiana, inviting them to grand tea parties amid the shadow court of Saint Petersburg. Finally, she glimpses a world beyond her mother’s Victorian sensibilities—a world of opulent ballrooms, scandalous flirtation, and whispered conversation. 

But as war approaches, the palaces of Russia are transformed. Olga and her sisters trade their gowns for nursing habits, assisting in surgeries and tending to the wounded bodies and minds of Russia’s military officers. As troubling rumours about her parents trickle in from the Front, Olga dares to hope that a budding romance might survive whatever the future may hold. But when tensions run high and supplies run low, the controversy over Rasputin grows into fiery protest, and calls for revolution threaten to end 300 years of Romanov rule.

At turns glittering and harrowing, The Last Grand Duchess is story about dynasty, duty, and love, but above all, it’s the story of a family who would choose devotion to each other over everything—including their lives.


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