Enchantments: A novel of Rasputin's daughter and the Romanovs
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A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK
“Part love story, part history, this novel is a tour de force [told] in language that soars and sears.”—More
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. Desperately hoping that Masha has inherited Rasputin’s healing powers, Tsarina Alexandra asks her to tend to her son, the headstrong prince Alyosha, who suffers from hemophilia. Soon after Masha arrives at the palace, the tsar is forced to abdicate, and the Bolsheviks place the royal family under house arrest. As Russia descends into civil war, Masha and Alyosha find solace in each other’s company. To escape the confinement of the palace, and to distract the prince from the pain she cannot heal, Masha tells him stories—some embellished and others entirely imagined—about Nikolay and Alexandra’s courtship, Rasputin’s exploits, and their wild and wonderful country, now 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.
Praise for Enchantments
“A sumptuous, atmospheric account of the last days of the Romanovs from the perspective of Rasputin’s daughter, [told] with the sensuous, transporting prose that is Kathryn Harrison’s trademark.”—Jennifer Egan
“[A] splendid and surprising book . . . Harrison has given us something enduring.”—The New York Times Book Review
“[Harrison delivers] this oft-told moment with shocking freshness. . . . Masha re-invents our ideas of Rasputin, and the world of Nicholas and Alexandra is imbued with a glow whose fierceness is governed by the imminence of its loss.”—Los Angeles Times
“A mesmerizing novel.”—O: The Oprah Magazine
“Bewitching . . . Harrison sets historic facts like jewels in this intricately fashioned work of exalted empathy and imagination, a literary Fabergé egg. . . . [A] dazzling return to historical fiction.”—Booklist (starred review)
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Trupp. They aren’t even guilty of being Romanovs. I’ve known I was about to expire ever since I was conscious—really, I have no memory of being without the looming threat of extinction—so this situation, this particular punishment for the rest of the family, is simply more of the same for me. Before Nagorny was killed, the only thing to cause me true unhappiness had been separation from Masha. Even Katya, much as I still long to feel her touching me, was just a pastime. I think I understand
that teased open his coat and snatched one and then another hundred-franc note from the billfold in his breast pocket. The breeze led Bally on a merry chase as the two notes landed on one paving stone and then another, remaining in sight and out of reach and traveling together in a way that was remarkable to see. At last Monsieur Bally gave up, gasping for air so that he had to bend over, his hands on his knees, for some minutes before he caught his breath. When he stood up he saw he was on the
taught himself to drive. Like a small child who has just learned to run and therefore never walks, not even to cross a room, Father drove so fast that when he arrived in a town he was followed, like an Old Testament prophet, by a pillar of cloud—funnels of dust twirling heavenward in his wake. By the time he’d parked at a local inn, he’d already caused such a commotion that a queue of supplicants formed immediately, and news of his arrival spread beyond the town’s borders to outlying farms.
It had to have, because whatever caused Alyosha’s hemophilia was unknown before Victoria’s reign. Unknown before her cloistered childhood, with no companion save her little spaniel. Unknown before her father died and left her prey to her selfish-monster-of-a-mother’s tyrannies, before her mother seized the regency and plotted with a lover to prevent Victoria’s ascending England’s throne. Unknown before Victoria, at last wearing her rightful crown, exiled her cruel mother to a remote tower, though
destroy them? Did they keep them in a growing file labeled Matryona Grigorievna Rasputina? Did they use them as a justification—not that they seemed to require such a thing—to investigate the persons to whom they were addressed? I had no idea and, really, I didn’t care. I knew I should care if my inquiries brought harm to anyone, but I didn’t. After years of determined avoidance, a kind of protective carapace that shattered at the sight of my mother’s letter, I was so fixed on finding out what