I Was Anastasia [Book Review]

August 24, 2018

I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon

I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon (cover) Image: a lady wearing a hat, boots, coat, and scarf sits on her suitcase in the middle of the road)

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, Biographical, Mystery

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.


For nearly a century, many have speculated about the survival of Anastasia Romanov after her famous political family was forced into a basement in Siberia and executed by firing squad in 1918. Bolshevik executioners claim that no one survived, but in 1920 a young woman surfaces and claims to be the Russian Grand Duchess Anastasia. People who don’t believe her call her Anna Anderson. For years, rumors that Anastasia did survive circulate through Europe. In this story, readers have an opportunity to form their own opinion.

Amazon Rating (August): 3.9 Stars

My Thoughts:

***This review may contain spoilers.

Overall, I enjoyed reading the history of Anastasia Romanov and exploring the controversy surrounding her death. Although well written, extensively researched, and creatively structured, I struggled with the backwards telling of Anna’s story. From a writer’s viewpoint, I can imagine that the creative and ambitious structure of the book earns many accolades. From a reader’s viewpoint, I can report that it was challenging and difficult to remain engaged with Anna’s story because of the backward telling. In fairness, others have given it rave reviews.

Structure. There are two characters, Princess Anastasia Romanov who is rumored to have been killed along with her family and Anna Anderson who claims to be Anastasia (assuming that Anastasia miraculously survives the attack on the family). While Anastasia’s story is told in a straightforward, linear manner, Anna’s story is told backwards from when we first meet her as an elderly woman in the beginning of the book (each chapter after that takes the reader backwards in her life). While Anastasia grows older, Ana grows younger until, at the end of the book, the timelines converge and the massacre occurs. At this time Anna is Anastasia’s age and assumes her identity….or is she really Anastasia? The backwards telling of Anna’s story was disorienting and challenging for me….it’s like reading a book starting at the end….so different from our usual expectations. However, I can understand how this helped serve the purpose of the story. Although it’s brilliant, it makes the reader work hard!

Don’t Google. If you are not familiar with the true life story, don’t google it before you read the book. I think it is more engaging to read this without a lot of prior knowledge.

Recommended. I Was Anastasia is recommended for readers who love a well written, fascinating histfic story and for those who would appreciate the challenge of an unusual story structure. Book clubs might enjoy this!

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

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I was anastasia

I Was Anastasia Information Here

Meet the Author, Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is a critically acclaimed author of historical fiction. She is the author of THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS (2014), FLIGHT OF DREAMS (2016), and I WAS ANASTASIA (2018). Her books have been translated into numerous languages and have been Library Reads, Indie Next, One Book One County, and Book of the Month Club selections. She is the co-founder of SheReads.org and lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband, four sons, black Lab, and a deranged Siamese cat. She splits her time between the grocery store and the baseball field.


Have you read I Was Anastasia or is it on your TBR?

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A Link I Love

Do you enjoy TV and/or a Netflix binge as well as reading? Do you have a favorite series or favorite episodes? I thought this was a great link to explore to see if the episodes listed match yours! 100 Best TV Episodes of the Century

My Summer 2018 TBR

I’ll be updating my Summer TBR list as I complete each read, so check this link often!
(So far I’ve read a good portion of the list (crossing off one more next week), some I’ve been more thrilled with than others.)

Looking Ahead:

Next Friday, I hope to bring you a review of The Map of Salt and Stars by Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar

map of salt and stars

Amazon Information Here

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Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

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  1. This sounds like such an interesting book! Do you think it would be readable for someone who doesn’t usually read historical novels?

    • Thanks for stopping in and commenting Dorine! Yes, it’s a fascinating book and engaging and easy reading…..it’s just the structure of Anna’s story told backward that’s challenging…..however the author uses great headings which help to orient the reader. I hope you enjoy the read!

  2. I agree with you Carol– I didn’t love this book as much as I thought I would– and I did make the fatal mistake of googling Anna Anderson near the start of my reading!! ha ha! Usually love historical fiction– and the Romanovs are if no admirable, still intriguing!! Love your reviews– you always have so much to say… xox

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