Bloomsbury Books for Young Readers
Susanne Dunlap's website
Anastasia is used to being a little bit invisible. Her younger brother, the heir to the throne, is ill and the focus of her parents' attention. The youngest Romanov daughter and Grand Duchess, she has lived a privileged but sheltered life. But, when WWI breaks out and the Bolsheviks threaten her family's 300-year rule, things change dramatically.
During a walk around the palace grounds, Anastasia meets a young guard named Sasha. Throughout the Romanov family's exile in Siberia and the downward spiral of the monarchy, Anastasia grows up while her secret friendship slowly changes from infatuation to true love.
Last year I read Susanne Dunlap's first young adult novel, The Musician's Daughter, and enjoyed it (I did not get around to reviewing -- long story) so I've been looking forward to reading more by the author. The fact that Anastasia's Secret is a book about the legendary Anastasia whom many thought to have escaped from the hideous murder of the Romanovs was a bonus. I've read very little about the Romanovs and the Bolshevik Revolution but I've desired to read more.
I think the author did an amazing job of sticking as close to the facts as humanly possible and I also think the story proposed an excellent "What if?" scenario. Anastasia's Secret is what I'd call a "quiet" book; the pace is fairly slow, for good reason. Careful pacing gives the reader an excellent sense of the timing as the Romanovs' world slowly crumbled. Occasionally, the meetings between Anastasia and Sasha became repetitive and the romance was definitely a bit of a stretch, but I enjoyed the historical setting so much that I wasn't particularly bothered by the implausibility.
There is some explanatory material that rounds the book out very nicely. In the introduction, the author describes the cast of characters, Russian naming and the necessity to limit the cast to certain key characters plus the fictional romantic interest. An epilogue and author's notes detail what happened to the family after the story ended, the most recently unearthed information concerning the Romanovs and why she chose to write about Anastasia.
Anastasia's Secret is a Young Adult novel told in first person, from Anastasia's point of view. In one of the other reviews I've linked to, below, you may note that the author says it's for ages 14 and up. That's because the romance becomes less innocent and a little more graphically described as Anastasia ages.
4/5 - Well researched and vividly imagined, an excellent peek into the final years of the Romanov rule overlaid with a sweet, if implausible, fictional tale of teen romance
The historical information that I gleaned from reading Anastasia's Secret came in very handy, last week, when I read The Secret Holocaust Diaries by Nonna Bannister. Nonna Bannister was a Russian whose grandfather was in the Tsar's Imperial Guard. The two books complemented each other surprisingly well and I'm eager to read more about the Romanovs and the Russian experience during WWII.
If you follow me on Twitter you've probably already seen this photo, but I'm such a big fan of wisteria that I thought it was worth sharing on the blog, as well. We've driven around in search of wisteria to photograph twice, this week. Isn't it beautiful?
I thought it fit the purple Anastasia's Secret cover theme well.
Books at Midnight - I like the way this blogger rated the writing, plot, romance, characters and cover separately.
I received my copy of Anastasia's Secret directly from the author, who chose to bypass the usual route and inscribe the book to me. How cool is that? Thank you, Susanne! I've got another of Susanne Dunlap's books, which I'm really looking forward to reading (and bought with my very own money): Lizst's Kiss.