Book Review: I Was Anastasia

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: I Was AnastasiaI Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon
Published by Doubleday Books on March 27th 2018
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Source: NetGalley

Countless others have rendered their verdict. Now it is your turn.

Russia, July 17, 1918 Under direct orders from Vladimir Lenin, Bolshevik secret police force Anastasia Romanov, along with the entire imperial family, into a damp basement in Siberia where they face a merciless firing squad. None survive. At least that is what the executioners have always claimed.

Germany, February 17, 1920 A young woman bearing an uncanny resemblance to Anastasia Romanov is pulled shivering and senseless from a canal in Berlin. Refusing to explain her presence in the freezing water, she is taken to the hospital where an examination reveals that her body is riddled with countless, horrific scars. When she finally does speak, this frightened, mysterious woman claims to be the Russian Grand Duchess Anastasia.

Her detractors, convinced that the young woman is only after the immense Romanov fortune, insist on calling her by a different name: Anna Anderson.

As rumors begin to circulate through European society that the youngest Romanov daughter has survived the massacre, old enemies and new threats are awakened.

I picked up I Was Anastasia as I have always been fascinated by Anastasia and whether she was alive since I was a little girl. I watched many biographies on Anna Anderson, who claimed to be the Grand Duchess, and followed the news about the Romanov family over the years. So I was thrilled to read a novel that dealt with both Anna and Anastasia’s stories. I Was Anastasia is beautifully written and well researched. However, I found the story telling method hard to follow. The novel narrated Anna Anderson’s story in reverse (from old age to young adulthood), and Anastasia’s story in chronological order (from young age to her death). I also felt that the story was the bleakest Romanov book I had ever read and struggled to continue reading it because it was all just so sad—but really that just shows how talented the author is. That being said, I enjoyed the author’s portrayal of Anna, who was very sympathetic View Spoiler », and Anastasia’s capability and resolve in the face of great tragedy.


This book was clearly thoroughly researched. As a person who has followed the Romanovs over the years, even I learned more about the family than I knew before. I think this novel would serve as a great first step for someone who wishes to learn about the Romanovs or Anastasia. Sadly, most of what I learned in the novel was heart wrenching. I was dismayed to View Spoiler » What a truly dark moment for history and one that the author portrayed delicately and emotionally.


I have never read a story narrated like I Was Anastasia and at first, I was very confused by it. It was especially jarring with Anna’s backwards narrative, as characters, places, and conundrums were discussed and I had no idea who the people were and what was going on until the next chapter that focused on Anna again (the chapters alternate back and forth between Anna and Anastasia).  I found it more than a little frustrating meeting a new character and being expected to know them without any introduction or background, but luckily Anna’s sass and witty remarks were a constant throughout the book, which I loved. However, without the author’s headings at the beginning of each chapter, marking the narrator, the date, and the setting, I would have been completely lost.


Even though I knew how the story ended from history and the news, I just did not feel that there was any ray of sunshine or hope in the narrative. It was depressing to me that one woman spent her entire life trying to prove to be View Spoiler ». Sure, the author fictitiously let View Spoiler »


I would recommend this book for people who love historical fiction, were beginners to the Romanovs, and for those who like a sad read. Unfortunately, I was never a huge fan of sad novels, so this book was just not for me. However, with the beauty of the writing, the way the author handled such a sad topic, managed to make all of the royal characters believable, and the amount of research the author obviously put into the novel, I elevated my rating to three stars.

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Posted February 28, 2018 in Book Reviews, Historical Fiction

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