Enchantments by Kathryn Harrison

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Reason for Reading:
  • I love reading about Russia and the Romanovs

I also recommend:

Summary from GoodReads:

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—including the headstrong Prince Alyosha. Desperately hoping that Masha has inherited Rasputin’s miraculous healing powers, Tsarina Alexandra asks her to tend to Aloysha, who suffers from hemophilia, a blood disease that keeps the boy confined to his sickbed, lest a simple scrape or bump prove fatal.

Two months after Masha arrives at the palace, the tsar is forced to abdicate, and Bolsheviks place the royal family under house arrest. As Russia descends into civil war, Masha and Alyosha grieve the loss of their former lives, finding solace in each other’s company. To escape the confinement of the palace, they tell stories—some embellished and some entirely imagined—about Nikolay and Alexandra’s courtship, Rasputin’s many exploits, and the wild and wonderful country 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.

My Review:

I desperately wanted to love this book. The cover, the Romanov’s, the tragedy of Russia during this time period – it should all add up to be heart-wrenchingly beautiful.. but it was lacking a bit for me.

There’s no doubt that Kathryn Harrison is a writer who commands attention – she had to have been otherwise I think I may have put the book down about halfway through. Instead, I persevered, muddling my way through fragments of stories until I reached the end. I think what it boiled down to was there were too many shifts, shifts of perspective/stories/time periods. I understand what Harrison was attempting to do, and give her high marks for taking on such a complicated subject, but I felt as if I was being stretched back and forth repeatedly while reading Enchantments until I was just wrung tight, worn out, and exhausted by merely reading the book.

I’ve read another book about Rasputin’s daughter, one by Robert Alexander, and the story was completely different – so I appreciated the perspective put forth in this book (did you know Rasputin’s daughter joined a circus? I had no idea!). I think if you are a fan of Russian history, and have a love for stories about the Romanov’s, this is a book that will interest you – but I recommend it with a warning: just be prepared to feel like a bit of a patchwork quilt has been read.

About the Author

  • Information regarding Kathryn Harrison:

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