Romanov Sisters (Rappaport)

The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra
Helen Rappaport, 2014
St. Martin's Press
512 pp.
ISBN-13: 9781250020208

They were the Princess Dianas of their day—perhaps the most photographed and talked about young royals of the early twentieth century. The four captivating Russian Grand Duchesses—Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia Romanov—were much admired for their happy dispositions, their looks, the clothes they wore and their privileged lifestyle.

Over the years, the story of the four Romanov sisters and their tragic end in a basement at Ekaterinburg in 1918 has clouded our view of them, leading to a mass of sentimental and idealized hagiography. With this treasure trove of diaries and letters from the grand duchesses to their friends and family, we learn that they were intelligent, sensitive and perceptive witnesses to the dark turmoil within their immediate family and the ominous approach of the Russian Revolution, the nightmare that would sweep their world away, and them along with it.

The Romanov Sisters sets out to capture the joy as well as the insecurities and poignancy of those young lives against the backdrop of the dying days of late Imperial Russia, World War I and the Russian Revolution. Helen Rappaport aims to present a new and challenging take on the story, drawing extensively on previously unseen or unpublished letters, diaries and archival sources, as well as private collections. It is a book that will surprise people, even aficionado. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Raised—North Kent, England, UK
Education—Leeds University
Awards—American Library Association Award (for reference)
Currently—lives in Oxford, England

Helen F. Rappaport (nee Ware; born ) is a British historian, author, and former actress. As a historian, she specialises in the Victorian era and revolutionary Russia.

Rappaport was born in Bromley but grew up near the River Medway in North Kent. She attended Chatham Grammar School for Girls. Her older brother Mike Ware, born 1939, is a photographer, chemist, and writer. She has twin younger brothers, Peter (also a photographer) and Christopher, born in 1953.

She studied Russian at Leeds University where she was involved in the university theatre group and launched her acting career.

After acting with the Leeds University theatre group she appeared in several television series including Crown Court; Love Hurts; and The Bill. She later claimed to have spent "20 years in the doldrums as an out of work, broke and miserable actress."

In the early nineties she became a copy editor for academic publishers Blackwell and OUP and also contributed to historical and biographical reference works published by example Cassell and Readers Digest.

By 1998 she had became a full-time author, writing three books for US publisher ABC-CLIO including An Encyclopaedia of Women Social Reformers in 2001, with a foreword by Marian Wright Edelman. It won an award in 2002 from the American Library Association as an Outstanding Reference Source and according to The Times Higher Educational Supplement, "A splendid book, informative and wide-ranging."

• Mary Seacole
In 2003 Rappaport discovered and purchased an 1869 portrait of Jamaican nurse Mary Seacole by Albert Charles Challen. The picture now hangs in the National Portrait Gallery. Mary Seacole features in Rappaport's 2007 book No Place for Ladies: The Untold Story of Women in the Crimean War which was praised by Simon Sebag Montefiore as "Poignant and inspirational, well researched yet thoroughly readable"and also received positive reviews in The Times (London) and Guardian.

• The Last Days of the Romanovs
Her 2008 book Ekaterinburg: The Last Days of the Romanovs received numrous positive reviews in both the UK and US where it became a bestseller.

• Lenin
Conspirator: Lenin in Exile published in 2009 gained considerable publicity due to Rappaport's claim that Lenin died from syphilis and not a stroke.

• Victorian cosmetics industry
Her 2010 book, Beautiful For Ever describes the growth of the Victorian cosmetics industry and tells the story of Madame Rachel who found both fame and infamy peddling products which claimed almost magical powers of "restoration and preservation." According to the Daily Mail, 'Rappaport handles her scandalous Victorian melodrama with energy and aplomb, and produces a richly entertaining portrait of the seamy side of 19th century society."

• Death of Prince Albert
Magnificent Obsession was published on 3 November 2011, the 150th anniversary of its subject; the death of Prince Albert.

• Birth of Photography
Capturing the Light: The Birth of Photography, co-written with Roger Watson, tells the story of Henry Fox Talbot and Louis Daguerre. Both authors took part in an event during the Edinburgh Book Festival in 2013.

• Russian princess
The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra came out in 2014, recounting the quiet, sheltered life of the four daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra, the Russian Tsar and his wife.

Rappaport is a fluent Russian speaker and is a translator of Russian plays, notably those of Anton Chekhov, working with Tom Stoppard, David Hare, David Lan and Nicholas Wright. (From Wikipedia. Retrieved 6/09/2014.)

Book Reviews
Gloom and doom characterized their lives from the very start. The end was written into the beginning. By the final pages, the lack of nitty-gritty is only a relief. This book is Rappaport righting a wrong. History has turned the Romanov sisters into an indiscriminate fairy princess... Rappaport takes on the task of bringing the girls back to earth. She wants to return them their lives, which, though brief, went by slowly and painstakingly, day by uneventful day, page by agonizing page.

The public spoke of the sisters in a gentle, superficial manner, but Rappaport captures sections of letters and diary entries to showcase the sisters’ thoughtfulness and intelligence. Readers will be swept up in the author’s leisurely yet informative narrative as she sheds new light on the lives of the four daughters. B&w photo insert.
Publishers Weekly

Rappaport manages to maintain reader interest even as she ticks off the repetitious tale of their boring lives: long walks with their father, sewing, study, tennis and heavy doses of religion.... A gossipy, revealing story of the doomed Russian family's fairy tale life told by an expert in the field.
Kirkus Reviews

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