I Was Anastasia (Lawhon)

I Was Anastasia 
Ariel Lawhon, 2018
Knopf Doubleday
352 pp.
ISBN-13:
9780385541695


Summary
In an enthralling new feat of historical suspense, Ariel Lawhon unravels the extraordinary twists and turns in Anna Anderson's 50-year battle to be recognized as Anastasia Romanov. Is she the Russian Grand Duchess, a beloved daughter and revered icon, or is she an imposter, the thief of another woman's legacy?

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. 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. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of the popular online book club, She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus).

Lawhon's first novel, The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress (2014) is centered around the still-unsolved disappearance of New York State Supreme Court Judge, Joseph Crater. Ariel believes that Story is the shortest distance to the human heart.

Her second novel, Flight of Dreams (2016) is a fictional exploration of the mystery behind the the 1937 Hindenberg blimp explosion. I Was Anastasia (2018), Lawhon's third novel, follows Anna Anderson, who claimed to be Anastasia Romonov, the lone survivor of the execution of the Czar of Russia and his family. (From the author's website.)

Visit the author on her blog She Reads.



Book Reviews
[Lawhon's] effortless, eloquent prose transports the reader via a dramatic, suspenseful and satisfying work of historical fiction.… Lawhon brilliantly employs an inventive and non-linear dual narrative to tell the tale of how Anastasia would become Anna Anderson, or, perhaps, how Anna became Anastasia.… In the end, what Lawhon does so convincingly is shake up our notion of identity. And not just that of Anastasia and Anna. Are we who we say we are, or who others believe us to be? It's a question that lingers long after the final page.
USA Today


Lawhon’s spectacular, emotionally rich third historical thoroughly imagines the events leading up to the execution of Russia’s royal family in 1918.… This sprawling, immersive tale… [brings] ts characters to sparkling life.
Publishers Weekly


(Starred review.) De los Santos brings her signature style, wit, and charm while weaving in beloved characters from her previous novels.…This tender, genuine, and joyful novel is one to
Booklist


Anna [Anderson's]… trials and tribulations are hardto follow…. So the Anastasia story ends up being the more compelling of the two, hurtling…to its grisly ending. Then comes an interesting Author's Note…. Somewhat overcomplicated but ultimately satisfying.
Kirkus Reviews



Discussion Questions
1. I Was Anastasia is an unusually structured novel that moves backward and forward in time. Why do you think the author chose to tell the story in this way?

2. When we first meet Anna Anderson, she is not an easy character to like. As you learned more about her past, did your opinion of her change?

3. How do you interpret Anna’s hoarding tendencies, especially with regard to animals?

4. Anna’s story is told in the third person; Anastasia’s story in the first person. What are your thoughts on the different points of view? Which did you prefer?

5. People often think of Anastasia Romanov in terms of the 1997 animated film. Yet this book does not portray her as a typical Disney princess. Were you glad to see a different side to this historic figure? Or did it bother you?

6. The bombing of Hannover (October 8, 1943) is a dramatic and terrifying scene in the book. Do you think you could display the same level of resilience if you were in Anna’s shoes?

7. The longer the Romanovs were in captivity, the smaller their world became, until they were confined to a handful of rooms. They each handled the boredom and oppression differently. What would you have done in their situation?

8.  Do your thoughts about Anna’s identity shift as the novel progresses? Does she become more (or less) believable as we travel back in time with her?

9. Did reading this novel inspire you to find out more about the Romanovs?

10. The Romanovs are not the only royal family to come to a tragic end, yet their story endures as few have. What do you think contributes to the timeless fascination—that of Anastasia in particular?

11. Discuss the ending of the novel. How did it affect your feelings about the novel as a whole?

12.  Did the Author’s Note change your opinion about the ending?
(Questions issued by the publisher.)

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