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Enchantments
by Kathryn Harrison

Overview - A "NEW YORK TIMES "NOTABLE BOOK
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.
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More About Enchantments by Kathryn Harrison
 
 
 
Overview
A "NEW YORK TIMES "NOTABLE BOOK
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.

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9781400063475
  • ISBN-10: 1400063477
  • Publisher: Random House Inc
  • Publish Date: March 2012
  • Page Count: 314


Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Literary
Books > Fiction > Historical - General
Books > Fiction > Biographical

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2011-12-05
  • Reviewer: Staff

When the rascally Grigory Rasputin is murdered during the final days of czarist Russia, his two daughters are left in the care of the doomed royal family. In this disappointing novel, Harrison (The Kiss) imagines the interior life of the eldest girl, Masha, 18 at the time of her father’s death, as she grows close to the young Alexei Nikolaevich, the famously hemophiliac son of the deposed czar. The “Mad Monk” Rasputin, with his women and his alleged healing powers, must be one of history’s most intriguing characters, so it’s hard to go wrong in his company. Unfortunately, despite such riveting material, the book’s language remains flat, the experiences and emotions of its characters never quite coming to life. Undeniably well researched, some details are truly fascinating: the Romanov girls sewing jewels into their undergarments and the amount of gasoline (150 gallons) used to burn corpses in an abandoned mine shaft. Seminal aspects of Masha’s later life, however, feel weakly sketched. Some interesting texture is achieved through the pacing and the later discovery of Alexei’s journal, but as often as not, the configuration leaves the novel feeling at once predictable and scattered. Agent: Amanda Urban. (Mar.)

 
BookPage Reviews

Love found at a Russian empire's end

Perhaps best known for her provocative memoirs, Kathryn Harrison triumphantly returns to her historical fiction roots with Enchantments, the sweeping (and wholly imagined) story of love between two unlikely allies: Maria Rasputin, daughter of “Mad Monk” Grigori Rasputin, and Tsarevich Alexei Romanov, would-be heir to the Russian empire. As with her previous novels Poison and The Binding Chair, Harrison takes a particular moment in time and brings it to stunning life.

It is 1917 in St. Petersburg when a diver pulls Grigori Rasputin’s battered body from the Neva River. That much is historical fact, but afterwards Harrison’s story becomes an alternate history: In the wake of their father’s brutal death, Maria—Masha—Rasputin and her sister, Varya, are sent to live with the Romanovs in the royal palace. Before his murder, Rasputin served as a healer to Alexei—here called Alyosha—Romanov, and the Tsar and Tsarina feel compelled to care for his children after his passing.

Tsarina Alexandra has other motives, too: Alyosha suffers from hemophilia, and she hopes Masha might care for her son as Grigori did. But when the Bolsheviks place the royal family under house arrest not two months after the Rasputin sisters arrive, something entirely different happens. Masha and Alyosha become friends and confidants, distracting each other from the world outside and Alyosha’s condition with stories of their families’ histories, their hopes for the future and the creation of a rich fantasy world only the two of them share. Masha and Alyosha begin to fall in love, but before that love can be fully explored, they are separated—first by distance, then by death.

Harrison is strongest when she writes about Masha—not just as Rasputin’s daughter, but as a living, breathing, feeling young woman in an impossible situation. The relationship between Masha and Alyosha is complicated, confusing and often all-consuming, as most young loves are.

Much has been written about Rasputin and the Romanovs, but Harrison brings her unique narrative perspective to Enchantments, re-imagining history—and a love story—in a completely new way.

 
BAM Customer Reviews

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