Friday, March 23, 2012

Review: Enchantments by Kathryn Harrison

Publish Date: March 6th 2012
Format: Paperback 336 pp

Synopsis (From the Publisher):
"From Kathryn Harrison, one of America’s most admired literary voices, comes a gorgeously written, enthralling novel set in the final days of Russia’s Romanov Empire. 
St. Petersburg, 1917. After Rasputin’s body is pulled from the icy waters of the Neva River, his eighteen-year-old daughter, Masha, is sent to live at the imperial palace with Tsar Nikolay and his family—including the headstrong Prince Alyosha. Desperately hoping that Masha has inherited Rasputin’s miraculous healing powers, Tsarina Alexandra asks her to tend to Aloysha, who suffers from hemophilia, a blood disease that keeps the boy confined to his sickbed, lest a simple scrape or bump prove fatal. 
Two months after Masha arrives at the palace, the tsar is forced to abdicate, and Bolsheviks place the royal family under house arrest. As Russia descends into civil war, Masha and Alyosha grieve the loss of their former lives, finding solace in each other’s company. To escape the confinement of the palace, they tell stories—some embellished and some entirely imagined—about Nikolay and Alexandra’s courtship, Rasputin’s many exploits, and the wild and wonderful country on the brink of an irrevocable transformation. In the worlds of their imagination, the weak become strong, legend becomes fact, and a future that will never come to pass feels close at hand. 
Mesmerizing, haunting, and told in Kathryn Harrison’s signature crystalline prose, Enchantments is a love story about two people who come together as everything around them is falling apart."

My Review: 

Throughout history, the tragedy of the Romanov's has been portrayed in film and literature, with a focus on the rumor that one of the Romanov children might have escaped the devastating massacre. Even though new DNA evidence has ruled out the possibility of that rumor being true, the majority of work tends to indulge in the myth. That's why Kathryn Harrison's novel Enchantments is such a heart warming journey through the last day's of the Romanov family. Since there is no possibility of an alternate ending, the reader is able to appreciate each characters story on a deeper level, creating a bittersweet experience from beginning to end.

Another delightful aspect of Enchantments was the choice of main characters: Alyosha, the young Tsesarevich, and Masha, Rasputin's daughter. Until now, Aloysha has always appeared to be a frail boy with little spirit. But in this novel, he becomes a three dimensional figure who is vivacious despite his physical limitations. Through his companion, Masha, the reader is told various stories about her mysterious father Gregory Rasputin; It is here the real story of Enchantments takes place. The stories of Rasputin weave together the lives of the Romanov family and their doomed fate, creating a haunting tapestry of devotion, turmoil and longing.

The novel is told solely from Masha's point of view, but there is a bit of time jumping due to her various stories, which does lead to some confusing moments. The stories do not seem to flow in chronological order and are not properly marked, so multitasking while reading is not recommended. Besides this issue there is nothing but the highest praise to be said for Enchantments. This is definitely a must read for anyone even remotely interested in the Romanov family. 

Kathryn Harrison’s TLC Book Tours tour stops: 

Copyright © 2012 Svea Love. All Rights Reserved.
FTC: I received this book from the author. As always these are my own honest opinions


Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

I'm glad the unusual chronology didn't inhibit your enjoyment of the book. Thanks for being on the tour! I'm featuring your review on TLC's Facebook page today.

Svea Love said...

I greatly enjoyed being on the tour, Heather. Thanks so much for featuring my review!

Unknown said...

Oh, sounds intriguing! Thanks for the review!