Saturday 25 February 2012

Enchantments: A Novel by Kathryn Harrison - Book Review

Title: Enchantments: A Novel
Author: Kathryn Harrison
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: 6th March 2012
Pages: 284
Format: E-Book - EPUB
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: ARC from NetGalley

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.
(Goodreads Synopsis)

The Russian Revolution has always held a certain fascination and so this book really appealed to me. I enjoyed the angle of the story, featuring Rasputin's daughter and the tsarevich, and you can see how Harrison has been influenced by Massie's wonderful biographical work. I also liked the little homage to The Master and Margarita in the coronation scene as that is a favourite book of mine.

The characters were all nicely portrayed and realistic and it was interesting to see things from Masha's perspective. Up until I read this book, I hadn't even known that Rasputin had any children! I thought telling it from his daughter's point of view was an original and intriguing idea.

However, at the end of the day, something just fell a little flat for me. There was nothing wrong with the book per se--although, I did find some of the flitting back and forth in time a little under marked and distracting--but I just never really got caught up in the story and that is why this one gets three stars rather than four. It was a perfectly nice tale, but for me it lacked the spark to make it really memorable.

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