New York Times Review
When Russian revolutionaries executed the Romanov family a century ago, the bullets ricocheted off diamonds concealed in the corsets of the royal princesses. Might one of those princesses have been spared? The specter of a Romanov survivor has inspired numerous books and several films, animated and otherwise, not to mention a memorable line in "Sympathy for the Devil." We know Anastasia Nikolaevna died, since DNA testing has definitively established that fact, but a certain inflammation of the romantic imagination considers it pretty to think otherwise. "I Was Anastasia" makes for a fevered entry into a crowded field, sketching a poignant picture of the fated clan's final days. The Romanovs' world will shrink down from palaces, grand balls and servants to a cold, coarse exile and finally to an ugly basement execution. Among the rogues' gallery of Romanov pretenders who emerge in the aftermath, a young woman surfaced in 1920 claiming to be Princess Anastasia. Lawhon's heroine is a fragile old woman when we first meet her in Virginia in 1970, 50 years after a suicide attempt on a bridge in Berlin thrust her into notoriety. Calling herself Anna, she takes up her quest for validation while being challenged by a host of Romanov descendants, all eagerly hunting czarist gold and Fabergé Easter eggs. Confusingly, some chapters unfold in reverse chronology, while others linger on the last days of the doomed family. But the book doggedly follows its intriguing conceit, rendering even more poignant the scene of the czarina and her daughters busily sewing jewels into the seams of their garments, optimistic to the end.
Publishers Weekly Review
Lawhon's spectacular, emotionally rich third historical thoroughly imagines the events leading up to the execution of Russia's royal family in 1918, after the October Revolution by the Bolsheviks. In a dual narrative, Lawhon also tackles the life of Anna Anderson, a woman who claimed to be Anastasia Romanov in Berlin in 1920. She has what look like scars from old bullet wounds, consistent with the manner in which the Romanovs were murdered. Anna's claims spread fast, and she's wooed by a long list of wealthy patrons who jump at the chance to be near possible royalty. Using material from the correspondence of the Romanov servants, Lawhon (Flight of Dreams) fleshes out the minutiae of the life of young Anastasia, a vibrant young lady confronting the loss of everything she's ever known. The tragic story of Anastasia is an enduring one, and the woman who laid claim to her birthright is a testament to the world's desire to believe in Anastasia's survival. This sprawling, immersive tale travels from revolutionary Russia to interwar France and Germany, bringing its characters to sparkling life. (Mar.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Library Journal Review
Not long after the execution of the Romanov family, headed by Tsar Nicholas, rumors fly that their youngest daughter, Anastasia, has escaped the carnage and is alive and well. Anna Anderson, a young woman rescued from a canal in Germany, bears an uncanny resemblance to the young tsarina, and her supporters are sure that she is, in fact, Anastasia and can regain the Romanov fortune and power. Her detractors see her as a money-hungry fake. Neither side offers definitive proof. Anastasia's story moves forward from the early months of 1917 to the executions in 1919, while Anna's begins when she is an older woman in the 1960s and works backward through time to the moment she is plucked from the canal. Readers move in and out of time and perspectives, switching sides and opinions along the way. The fate of the Romanovs directly clashes with the modern world that is emerging from the industrial revolution, the rise of social consciousness, and the questioning of the historical privilege granted to monarchs. Anastasia's tale reveals the family's disconnect with the common people, while Anna's narrative highlights the cultural shifts that underlie the time period. This is an excellent read for teens. The storytelling makes the novel come alive with tension and intrigue. -VERDICT For those who like mysteries and historical fiction.-Connie Williams, Petaluma Public Library, CA © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.