I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon is a historical fiction novel centered on the mystery of Anastasia Romanov. So I’ve been highly interested in the Anastasia story for quite some time thanks to an unlikely source: the 1997 musical cartoon. There is something fascinating about the potential that the Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna might have survived.
Now obviously, the Anastasia cartoon is not anywhere based in reality. However, there is another Anastasia film released in 1956 that starred Ingrid Bergman as a woman who could be the lost Duchess. This movie was based on Anna Anderson who was the most famous of the Anastasia imposters. And Anna Anderson is the subject of I Was Anastasia. Here’s the synopsis:
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. With a brilliantly crafted dual narrative structure, Lawhon wades into the most psychologically complex and emotionally compelling territory yet: the nature of identity itself.
The question of who Anna Anderson is and what actually happened to Anastasia Romanov creates a saga that spans fifty years and touches three continents. This thrilling story is every bit as moving and momentous as it is harrowing and twisted.
Okay, so I’m pretty excited to read how this tale unfolds. Check back soon for a spoiler-free review.