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The Quest for Anastasia: Solving the Mystery of the Lost Romanovs Paperback – 1 Apr 1999
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
In several cases, they give us a several-page synopsis of a book or article which has NOTHING to do with the narrative-- for example, four pages pointing out anti-Semitic passages in one early investigator's (Robert Wilton's) book. Since the authors disagree with these passages, and the passages themselves have nothing to say beyond anti-Semitic ranting, why bother to give such a detailed description of exactly what they said? The authors also digress from the narrative to discuss obscure editorials, rants, and works of fiction dealing with the Romanovs' deaths. The point of all this escapes me.
I also noticed several minor errors on the first read-through-- sloppy errors, which indicated that the authors had skimmed, rather than actually reading, some of their source material.
The whole book feels like it was slappped together in hopes of making some money on a (fairly) popular subject. Several of their main sources are both better-written and more informative (William Clarke's "The Lost Fortune of the Tsars" and Peter Kurth's "Anastasia"; Robert Massie's "The Romanovs: The Final Chapter", which is not in the bibliography, covers much of the same material as "Quest for Anastasia" and is much more informative). Since these books are still in print, I honestly can't see much reason to waste your time with this one.
And that brings us to the title of the book. Did Anastasia somehow survive the rain of bullets and thrusts of bayonets in that basement and reappear some years later in a mental hospital in Berlin? Was the woman known as Anna Anderson really Anastasia? As the authors point out -- but only after you've read to the end of the book -- DNA evidence says she was NOT Anastasia. If she was not Anastasia, how did she manage to convince many credible people, including people who knew Anastasia, that she was? The points of similarity were many, both physically and in her knowledge of the Russian court. Many of the people who believed she was the daughter of the tsar have not accepted the DNA evidence. Those who do accept it say she was really a Polish peasant who disappeared at the same time that "Anna" appeared.
Many people had vested interests in the story of Anna. Surviving members of the Romanov extended family supposedly wanted to make sure that Anna did not inherit any of the tsar's reported fortune (although no fortune was ever found), so it was because of their greed that they would not accept Anna as Anastasia. In some cases, investigators got sucked into the story (either looking for fame, fortune or simply charmed by Anna) and spent years of their lives trying to establish Anna's identity.
Those who persist in believing that Anna was Anastasia say a peasant girl could not have had such a "regal bearing" or knew as much about the Romanovs as Anna did. However, I see no reason why a Polish peasant girl who spent years in a hospital with nothing to do but read books and study couldn't have learned about the Russian court and couldn't have practiced acting like a Russian Grand Duchess. From the evidence, it appears that Anna came to believe she WAS the tsar's daughter. But if so, how did she claim to have escaped the bullets? Yes, she could have claimed amnesia about the event, but her identity as Anastasia is not believable without some accounting of her escape and the authors give us none. Perhaps because for them the DNA evidence was conclusive. Anna is NOT Anastasia.
The book is an entertaining read, and I enjoyed it, but it does not live up to its subtitle: "Solving the Mystery of the Lost Romanovs." As long as some people will not let go of their vision of Anastasia, who still believe that Anna was the tsar's daughter, then the story goes on. There are also at least two "pretenders" who have said they are Alexei -- both are dead now, but their families press their claim. Since two bodies were never found -- those of Alexei and of one of the daughters -- it seems likely that this is one story that will never go away, a mystery that can never truly be solved.