I Was Anastasia
April 2018 Indie Next List
— Kari Erpenbach, University of Minnesota Bookstores, Minneapolis, MN
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"Compelling and utterly fascinating." —Lisa Wingate, author of Before We Were Yours
An enthralling feat of historical suspense that unravels the extraordinary twists and turns in Anna Anderson's fifty-year battle to be recognized as Anastasia Romanov. Is she the Russian Grand Duchess or 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. Refusing to explain her presence in the freezing water or even acknowledge her rescuers, 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 young woman claims to be the Russian grand duchess.
As rumors begin to circulate through European society that the youngest Romanov daughter has survived the massacre at Ekaterinburg, old enemies and new threats are awakened. The question of who Anna Anderson is and what actually happened to Anastasia Romanov spans fifty years and touches three continents. This thrilling saga is every bit as moving and momentous as it is harrowing and twisted.
Praise For I Was Anastasia…
"I Was Anastasia is a wild train trip through time. The doors swish open here, then there, scenes sometimes racing by, sometimes drifting far into the mysterious lives of Anastasia Romanov and Anna Anderson. Every view is tantalizing, surprising, compelling, and utterly fascinating. Ariel Lawhon unfolds a complicated story with skill, style, and compassion."
—Lisa Wingate, New York Times bestselling author of Before We Were Yours
"A young Tsarina traveling towards tragedy and an aging Grand Duchess penniless and betrayed. Twin stories so gripping you will believe history itself can be rewritten. Told with masterful intensity and moments of true human compassion."
—Helen Simonson, New York Times bestselling author of The Summer Before the War
"Ariel Lawhon is a masterful storyteller; I Was Anastasia is a wild ride, extravagant with its vivid sensory experiences and page turning suspense. Inspired by history, and infused with imagination and intrigue, this novel satisfies with every twist and turn. I was both captivated and enchanted; I will carry this story—from its beguiling opening to its catch-my-breath ending — in my heart and imagination for a long, long while."
—Patti Callahan Henry, New York Times bestselling author of Driftwood Summer and The Bookshop at Water's End
"The fate of the Grand Duchess Anastasia, youngest daughter of the last Tsar, is an old mystery that never gets old. In the hands of Ariel Lawhon, it springs to life again, challenging everything we believe about what we remember and who we are. Was Anna Anderson really the only survivor of the Romanovs or was she a persistent fraud? Somehow, Lawhon, a masterly writer, not only leads her readers to ponder this riddle, but to care about it as well. This is a deft and deeply moving saga."
—Jacquelyn Mitchard, New York Times bestselling author of The Deep End of the Ocean
"I don’t know what’s most impressive about I Was Anastasia: the wildly inventive structure, the ferocious heroine (or is it two?), or the dark, twisted questions it raises about the stories we tell—both to others and to ourselves. Ariel Lawhon has written a gorgeous, haunting puzzle of a book that will grip you until the final page."
—Karen Abbott, New York Times bestselling author of Sin in the Second City and Liar Temptress Soldier Spy
Anchor, 9781101973318, 432pp.
Publication Date: February 5, 2019
About the Author
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
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?