A novel of Rasputin's daughter and the Romanovs
A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK
“Part love story, part history, this novel is a tour de force [told] in language that soars and sears.”—More
St. Petersburg, 1917. After Rasputin’s body is pulled from the icy waters of the Neva River, his eighteen-year-old daughter, Masha, is sent to live at the imperial palace with Tsar Nikolay and his family. Desperately hoping that Masha has inherited Rasputin’s healing powers, Tsarina Alexandra asks her to tend to her son, the headstrong prince Alyosha, who suffers from hemophilia. Soon after Masha arrives at the palace, the tsar is forced to abdicate, and the Bolsheviks place the royal family under house arrest. As Russia descends into civil war, Masha and Alyosha find solace in each other’s company. To escape the confinement of the palace, and to distract the prince from the pain she cannot heal, Masha tells him stories—some embellished and others entirely imagined—about Nikolay and Alexandra’s courtship, Rasputin’s exploits, and their wild and wonderful country, now on the brink of an irrevocable transformation. In the worlds of their imagination, the weak become strong, legend becomes fact, and a future that will never come to pass feels close at hand.
Praise for Enchantments
“A sumptuous, atmospheric account of the last days of the Romanovs from the perspective of Rasputin’s daughter, [told] with the sensuous, transporting prose that is Kathryn Harrison’s trademark.”—Jennifer Egan
“[A] splendid and surprising book . . . Harrison has given us something enduring.”—The New York Times Book Review
“[Harrison delivers] this oft-told moment with shocking freshness. . . . Masha re-invents our ideas of Rasputin, and the world of Nicholas and Alexandra is imbued with a glow whose fierceness is governed by the imminence of its loss.”—Los Angeles Times
“A mesmerizing novel.”—O: The Oprah Magazine
“Bewitching . . . Harrison sets historic facts like jewels in this intricately fashioned work of exalted empathy and imagination, a literary Fabergé egg. . . . [A] dazzling return to historical fiction.”—Booklist (starred review)
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When the rascally Grigory Rasputin is murdered during the final days of czarist Russia, his two daughters are left in the care of the doomed royal family. In this disappointing novel, Harrison (The Kiss) imagines the interior life of the eldest girl, Masha, 18 at the time of her father's death, as she grows close to the young Alexei Nikolaevich, the famously hemophiliac son of the deposed czar. The "Mad Monk" Rasputin, with his women and his alleged healing powers, must be one of history's most intriguing characters, so it's hard to go wrong in his company. Unfortunately, despite such riveting material, the book's language remains flat, the experiences and emotions of its characters never quite coming to life. Undeniably well researched, some details are truly fascinating: the Romanov girls sewing jewels into their undergarments and the amount of gasoline (150 gallons) used to burn corpses in an abandoned mine shaft. Seminal aspects of Masha's later life, however, feel weakly sketched. Some interesting texture is achieved through the pacing and the later discovery of Alexei's journal, but as often as not, the configuration leaves the novel feeling at once predictable and scattered.
An excellent story
This was an excellent story by Kathryn Harrison who brought the historical aspects of the Romanov and Rasputin families to life. Her ability to capture the sights, sounds, smells, and lived experience of such a group to the readers mind has drawn me into reading more of her work.
I would love to be able to read this and write a review. Unfortunately I purchased this earlier this month and have been on the merry-go-round of trying to download then being sent to "purchased" then to "download" then back to"purchased" then to "download" then back to "purchased" etc etc ad infinitum ad nauseum!!!!! It appears on my library shelf with a "paused" sign where it has been for 3 weeks. Anybody know what's going on???