Susanne Dunlap did a wonderful job of turning Anastasia from a figure in a history book to a lifelike teenage girl with the same emotions, hopes, aspirations and thoughts as other girls her age. I really liked how Anastasia felt that she was still being treated as the ‘baby’ of the family could be counted on to make everyone laugh when she was really growing into a intelligent young lady just like her sisters and needed to be thought of as that. This added a depth to her character that made her seem more lifelike to me and was key in the development of her character. I also loved the imagined secret romance with Sasha that was bought into the story because it was the perfect side plot to the story and was a distraction from Anastasia’s increasingly bleak and controlled life whilst also giving her the chance to grow up and experience love for the first time. Their relationship was complicated and it was often hard to tell what Sasha thought of Anastasia but it added an exciting and romantic element to the book to provide a distinction to other sad events. Sasha wasn’t my favourite of heroes and I felt there was something lacking about his character but nevertheless, it didn’t impact my enjoyment too much. Their relationship was also used as a useful window for learning more about the world of Russia outside the Palace walls, which Anastasia would otherwise have been unaware of. I found learning more about the country at the time very interesting and I’m glad this was added in.
I really liked how close Anastasia was to her sisters and younger brother. I particularly liked her relationship with her sister Marie (known as Mashka), who she shares a bedroom with Anastasia and I would have liked to have known what her character was thinking. As secondary characters, her sisters were very well developed and this is unusual in books with quite a large cast of characters but was key to this story because it helped me to care more about their fate. The Romanov family as a whole had a close and warm bond that I wouldn’t have imagined in such an important family when their father is busy with ruling the country. Even at the hardest times, they stayed faithful to each other and this is something to be admired.
It is clear that Susanne Dunlap spent a lot of time researching meticulously for Anastasia’s life is described in detail from servants to pets and as far as I know, these details are accurate. I learnt so much but it didn’t feel like it was overloaded in detail at all because everything was woven in a natural way into a rich tapestry. At the front of the book, there was a really helpful glossary of the characters names in the books explaining the Russian way of naming family members and their customs. I found myself using this throughout the book to make clear the sometimes confusing Russian names. This in depth look and intricate at the Romanov household and the story of the Romanov family fascinated me and made me want to learn more about them after I’d finished the book.
The inevitable ending of the story was well written and I was satisfied with it at first but another part of me would have liked to have seen it carried on further than the point it got up to just out of curiosity. Susanne Dunlap partly did this in the detailed epilogue explaining what happened afterwards with her musings about writing about such a talked about historical figure in the first person but it didn’t have the same effect as it would have been seeing it through Anastasia’s eyes. Though I have to admit that the story didn’t need this for the story is left on a note of insecure hope and the reader is left to imagine what Anastasia went through after that.
Anastasia’s Secret is a intriguing book that brings Anastasia Romanov’s teenage years to life blending fact with fiction to create an inevitably devastating and tragic story but also one brimming with romance and hope. The only thing that brings my rating down to 4.5 is that sometimes I found some parts of the bit lengthy and unnecessary.
Rating: 4.5 stars