SUMMARY (from Goodreads): It is 1989 and Daria Gradov is an elderly grandmother living in the rural West. But she is not who she claims to be – the widow of a Russian immigrant of modest means. In actuality she began her life as the Grand Duchess Tatiana, known as Tania to her parents, Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra.
At the heart of the story is young Tania, who lives a life of incomparable luxury in pre-Revolutionary Russia. When her younger brother is diagnosed with haemophilia and the key to his survival lies in the mysterious power of the illiterate monk Rasputin, it is merely an omen of much worse things to come. Soon war breaks out and revolution sweeps the family from power and into claustrophobic imprisonment in Siberia. Into Tania’s world comes a young soldier whose life she helps to save and who becomes her partner in daring plans to rescue the imperial family from certain death.
The story of The Tsarina’s Daughter is a completely fictional story of how might the life of Tatiana have been like and how she could have survived. The emphasis is on fictional. This is not a book which would dedicate itself to historical accuracy.
Nevertheless, The Tsarina’s Daughter is a book which gives the reader a good taste of the life in Russia in the early twentieth century. Though many characters and events are fictional, Erickson creates a vivid picture of the time and place.
On one side there is the aristocracy, spearheaded by the Romanovs. Through Erickson’s writing the reader can see the luxurious palaces, smell abundant feasts, and feel the smooth silk gowns. There are scandals and family problems, worries and weaknesses, small anecdotes and private conversations. They might not be real, but they could be very close to reality.
On the opposite side, there are dark, dirty streets, damp houses, cold, sickness, and hunger of the poor. When the war makes their lives still worse, the suffering of the unprivileged gives rise to revolutionary ideas, which slowly but resolutely start tearing apart the sheltered world of the Romanovs.
Erickson shows us the eternal gap yawning between the rulers and their subjects, the rich and the poor, who live in different realities. Instead of facing the problems and doing something about helping the people who they are supposed to be taking care of, the nobility rather buries their heads in the sand and pretend their life will forever continue the same way, because they do not want to lose their position. In a century this has not changed much and Erickson reminds us of that.
The plot focuses on Tania’s story. It is on many places farfetched, but the anecdotes and details of her life could have happened. Her survival is, naturally and sadly so, a product of imagination, but telling the story from her P. O. V. adds the air of authenticity.
The Tsarina’s Daughter is a book which creates a genuine atmosphere of a particular era in history. It is a compelling book you can enjoy if you are not too strict about historical accuracy.
RECOMMENDATION: Those readers who would like a general picture of the end of the Romanov era would enjoy this book which is trying to redeem historical brutality by providing a partially happy ending through imagination.