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I Was Anastasia

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An enthralling feat of historical suspense that unravels the extraordinary twists and turns in Anna Anderson's fifty-year battle to be recognized as Anastasia Romanov. Is she the Russian Grand Duchess or the thief of another woman's legacy?

Countless others have rendered their verdict. Now it is your turn.

Russia, July 17, 1918: Under direct orders from Vladimir Lenin, Bolshevik secret police force Anastasia Romanov, along with the entire imperial family, into a damp basement in Siberia, where they face a merciless firing squad. None survive. At least that is what the executioners have always claimed.

Germany, February 17, 1920: A young woman bearing an uncanny resemblance to Anastasia Romanov is pulled shivering and senseless from a canal. Refusing to explain her presence in the freezing water or even acknowledge her rescuers, she is taken to the hospital where an examination reveals that her body is riddled with countless horrific scars. When she finally does speak, this frightened, mysterious young woman claims to be the Russian grand duchess.
As rumors begin to circulate through European society that the youngest Romanov daughter has survived the massacre at Ekaterinburg, old enemies and new threats are awakened. The question of who Anna Anderson is and what actually happened to Anastasia Romanov spans fifty years and touches three continents. This thrilling saga is every bit as moving and momentous as it is harrowing and twisted.

13 pages, Audio CD

First published March 27, 2018

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About the author

Ariel Lawhon is the critically acclaimed, New York Times Bestselling author of THE WIFE, THE MAID, AND THE MISTRESS, FLIGHT OF DREAMS, I WAS ANASTASIA, and CODE NAME HELENE. Her books have been translated into numerous languages and have been Library Reads, One Book One County, Indie Next, Costco, and Book of the Month Club selections. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband, four sons, and black Lab—who is, thankfully, a girl. Ariel splits her time between the grocery store and the baseball field.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,158 reviews
Profile Image for Julie .
3,976 reviews58.9k followers
May 25, 2018
I am Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon is a 2018 Doubleday publication.

No matter how many movies, documentaries, or books I’ve watched or read, the romantic in me simply can’t resist the fascination and the mystery of Anastasia Romanov. This book examines the life of Anna Anderson, who claimed she was Anastasia, while also chronicling the period of time the Romanov’s were in exile, leading up to their execution during the Bolshevik Revolution.

Anna’s claims captured our imaginations for decades and sparked many debates over the legitimacy of her pronouncement. While she was often met with skepticism, she also had many staunch supporters.
I, for one, always loved the notion surrounding this legend. I hoped, no matter how far-fetched or doubtful the probability, that Anna Anderson really was Anastasia Romanov.

If a miracle did happen, and Anastasia somehow managed to survive, we could all rationalize our fascination with the Czar’s daughter, from Ingrid Bergman’s oscar winning portrayal, to the animated Disney film, and all points in between. But, of course, the reality is far more serious and grim.

This novel is obviously a very ambitious undertaking. Giving voice to Anastasia, and Anna Anderson, describing minute historical details, adding authentic and vivid dialogue, along with solid pacing, and well-drawn characterizations.

This story is very interesting, and the author certainly did her homework, doing a great job of laying out Anna’s complexities. Anna was difficult, but also lived with a host of mental issues, making her a sympathetic figure on occasion, which left me with conflicting emotions. I often wondered how other people who have read this book felt about her in the end.

However, I must address the elephant in the room when it comes to the way the author structured the novel. She explains the method to her madness in a note at the end of the book, and it does make sense, from the viewpoint of the writer, and logically, I see where she’s coming from. However, the backwards/forwards, first and third person narratives made the book more difficult to read than need be, in my opinion. I did struggle with the format, I must say. However, others may not be bothered by it at all, and may even benefit from it. I’m not always the sharpest tool in the shed, so there is that. However, I did agree with the concept of separating ‘Anastasia’ from ‘Anna’, but I did wish for a more traditional type of dual timeline, without all that skipping around.

The novel’s strongest area is the pacing and the agonizingly taut build -up of suspense. We must watch with mounting dread as the Romanov’s are taken to Siberia, the clock ticking away as they careen towards their ultimate, tragic fate. This part of the story is interwoven with Anna’s as she sits in a German court waiting on their decision, hoping she will at long last lay legitimate and official claim to the name ‘Anastasia Romanov’. The theories mapped out here are very imaginative, plausible, realistic and thought provoking. I can tell the author put a great deal of thought and time into this novel, which is much appreciated. Although it took me a long time to get through the book, really struggling with it at times, ultimately, I found it to be quite interesting and I’m glad I didn’t give up on it.

One point I think we can all agree on, no matter what, is that Anna’s claims turned Anastasia Romanov into a legend, taking on a life of its own. If not for her, Anastasia and her sisters would most likely have long been forgotten over time, along with other royal families who were met with the same fate. Just a little something to ponder over-

I do recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Romanov history, of course, but be prepared- this is not a fairy tale! I would also recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction in general. This book will most likely spark your curiosity about the Romanov family and you will want to learn more about this them, and the events leading up to their capture, exile, and murders.

4 stars
Profile Image for Crumb.
189 reviews505 followers
April 7, 2018
This book, for me, was mediocre. The history behind this story was fascinating, but the way the story was executed, was ill-conceived. There were two alternating story lines that were asynchronous to one another, which made for a pretty confusing reading experience. However, with all that being said, I still really enjoyed the story and the history.

This novel chronicled the final days of the Romanov family, shining a light on Anastasia. Did she die in Ekaterinburg with the rest of her family or didn't she? That is what the author wants the reader to decide.

The other story follows a woman claiming to be Anastasia, who goes by Anna Anderson.

If you are interested in Russian history, I definitely think you would like this book. I liked the story..I did. I just thought it could have been better. Written better. Told better..
Like Shania Twain says.. "That Don't Impress Me Much"
Profile Image for Debra .
2,128 reviews34.9k followers
November 15, 2017
"Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth." -Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Most people know the story of the execution/assassination of Tsar Nicholas II and the rest of the Romanov family in Elakterinburg, Russia at the hands of the Bolsheviks following the Russian revolution. Most have also heard of the woman (Anna Anderson) who claimed for years to be Anastasia Romanov and that she survived the brutal attack that claimed the lives of her family and servants. This is a clever telling of that story. The question about what whether Anastasia Romanov survived the firing squad in the basement has fascinated people for decades. Lack of DNA testing and location of a grave/burial site helped many who stepped forward to claim that she was the sole survivor. Of course, through the passing of time, DNA testing has been conducted and grave site excavations have given a clear answer.

But as the saying goes...it's not the destination, it's the journey. Lawhon takes the reader on a unique journey using two story lines. While reading this book, readers will either enjoy or become annoyed by the storytelling. While Anastasia Romanov's story is told chronologically, the story of Anna Anderson is told in reverse. In Author's note, Ariel Lawhon states that the movie "Memento" is a favorite of hers. This style of writing also reminded me of the book "All the missing girls" which was also told in reverse.

I found that I rather liked how she told her story. The storytelling was unique, granted, it did take me a couple of chapters to wrap my head around it. Thankfully, the chapters are labeled with the time you are reading. That is a big help! There is a lot of historical detail in this book. It is evident that the Author did a great deal of research prior to the writing of this book. History buffs may detect that Lawhon blended several characters into one (i.e. had one character be a blending of 2 real life guards of the Romanov's) in order to help the reader keep track of events and not be weighed down by too many characters.

It is hard to say too much without giving away spoilers, but this work of historical fiction was very good. I really appreciated how she blended historical facts with fiction. If you do not know the entire history about the Romanov's family's fall from grace and the events leading up to their execution, it is laid out for you here.

I highly recommend reading the Author's note at the end. I think this is essential. She details her research, why she blended characters, her inspiration for the reverse story telling and what lead her to write this book. I was actually deciding between a 3.5 and a 4 star rating, and then I read the Author's note and that pushed the book to a 4 star rating for me.

I love when books cause me to think, feel and also to learn. I did learn some facts while reading this book and I found I often wanted to put the book down and think about what I had just read. Mainly because things in this book really happened. Sitting and thinking about the horrible treatment of this family (especially the girls) and what they endured -living in constant fear and dread, I can't even imagine.

Again, interesting story-telling and a compelling read.

Thank you to Doubleday books and NetGalley for providing me with an advanced readers copy of this book.

See more of my reviews at www.openbookpost.com
Profile Image for jessica.
2,480 reviews29.7k followers
November 2, 2018
i am absolutely obsessed with all things romanov. i couldnt tell you how many times i watched the animated film ‘anastasia’ as a girl. and what i thought was just a childhood phase has slowly become something of a passion, so you can imagine my excitement when this book came out earlier this year.

the story of anna anderson is not one that i am too familiar with. i was aware there was someone who claimed to be the grand duchess anastasia, but beyond the claims eventually being dismissed, i knew nothing specific. however, i think that enhanced my reading experience, as i didnt know what to expect and it gave the story a sense of mystery.

and although this book is right up my street, i couldnt help but feel a little let down. i think the biggest disappointment was the method in which this story was told. this book tells both annas and anastasias stories in a very nonlinear fashion. anastasias is told chronologically (beginning in 1917) and annas is told backwards (starting in 1970) until the two stories converge. and i understand why it was told this way. unfortunately, what was meant to be alluring only lead to frustration. the constant switching between the two was difficult to follow. also, i was quite bored with annas story, which was half the book. not particularly sure why that was, but i found myself skimming through her chapters just to get to anastasias.

regardless of my minor displeasures with this book, there was still a lot of new information that i learned. this book was very well researched and i could tell a lot of time went into making it factually accurate. i dont regret reading it, but i would only recommend it to those really interested in anna andersons story. for those looking for other historical fiction novels about the romanovs final days, i would recommend ‘the kitchen boy’ or ‘the house of special purpose’ instead.

3.5 stars
Profile Image for Debbie.
687 reviews426 followers
November 14, 2021
For many years, I've been keenly interested in Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and his Romanov family, and I was familiar with Anna Anderson, who for several decades, claimed to be the Grand Duchess Anastasia, so when I mentioned to my youngest daughter that I really enjoyed Ariel Lawhon's Code Name Hélène, she recommended that I read this author's book I Was Anastasia.

Positives ...
Because of my long-standing interest with the people involved in this story, I appreciated learning all the particulars about Anna Anderson's rise to notoriety. I also learned some new information about Anastasia (and her family) that I never knew before!

BIGGEST positive!
Oh! What a perfect ending! Although some readers may be confused with Lawhon's unique structure of the dual timeline strategy, I don't think she could have done it effectively any other way! Her creative writing led Grand Duchess Anastasia's story line forward in time, whereas Anna Anderson's story line goes back in time, eventually "meeting" at a certain point in history. I was extremely satisfied as to how Lawhon authentically pulled this off!

I would highly recommend this story to fans of historical fiction, especially in regards to imperial Russia!
Profile Image for Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader.
2,055 reviews30k followers
March 30, 2018
4 engrossing stars to I Was Anastasia! ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Being approved to read an early copy of I Was Anastasia was like winning the lottery to this historical fiction fan. Not only because of my love for the genre, but also because of my interest in Anastasia. Not because she was a princess necessarily, but because growing up I remember discussions about Anna Anderson and if she was or was not the real Anastasia Romanov.

Ariel Lawhon ambitiously tackles this notion in a genius structure through writing from two viewpoints in different timelines, Anastasia’s in forward-progression, and Anna’s in reverse.

In the Author’s Note, Lawhon describes that it was challenging to write this way, and I kept thinking that as I read. She even read biographies of Anna Anderson in reverse order so that she would formulate it in her head the way she would eventually write Anna’s voice.

It would have been easier to write in linear form, and perhaps easier for the reader to follow; but I enjoyed this convergence in storylines. It built the suspense for me. Even though I already knew the true outcome, I longed for a different one as I quickly read through this book waiting for the timelines to intersect, waiting for the answer Lawhon would write.

Reading the Author’s Note also inspired me to dig deeper into Romanov history. I have a nonfiction book she cited as a reference, The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra, and plan to read it soon to learn more.

Thank you to Ariel Lawhon, Doubleday, and Netgalley for the ARC. I Was Anastasia is available now!

Profile Image for Tammy.
494 reviews420 followers
February 1, 2018
Those unfamiliar with the Anastasia Romanov/Anna Anderson story will find much to like in this fictional novel. It’s an effective introduction to the bizarre controversy surrounding two historical people. My experience was a bit different. As others have mentioned, Anastasia’s story is told chronologically while Anna’s story is told in reverse order. Given that this is well worn material, I understand that the author chose this structure for dramatic effect. However, I found it to be a contrivance that was more annoying than dramatic. Characters carry on conversations and you don’t find out until one or more chapters afterwards who some of these characters are which blurs the meaning of the initial conversations. And then there are the characterizations which left me cold and I mean the kind of frigidity that one would find in, say, Siberia. Granted, I was Anastasia is about the Anastasia/Anna dispute but I have read other historical fiction that has handled the questions surrounding the violent tragedy of July 1917 deftly. If upon reading this book you find that you are interested in the Romanov Dynasty, I would recommend anything written by Robert K. Massie. His narrative biographies are accessible and thorough providing the socio-political background necessary to understand why events happened as they did. Not a bad read but it didn't make me want to do cartwheels either.
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,687 reviews14k followers
April 13, 2018
3.5 I am fairly familiar with the last days of the Romanovs, having read a few non fiction books about the subject. The woman who appears and tries to prove that she is a Romanovs daughter Anastasia, I was less familiar. In alternating chapters we follow both stories. The one of the Romanovs imprisonmrnt and eventually murder is written in a linear timeline, the story of Anna is told backwards in time, even within the same Chapter, we go backwards.

I did like learning more about the girls personalities, though of course the focus is on Anastasia. They went through some terrible things, even more so because they had such a protected upbringing. Quite heartbreaking that the children were blamed for their parents mistakes. The part with Anna was also told well, but I found because of the way it was written, sometimes confusing.

A great deal of research went into this novel, and the author explains in her authors note what that entailed and what she changed to make the story flow better. She also explains why she wrote it the way she did. I enjoyed this for the most part, but though I read why she wrote it this way, I still found myself liking those sections less.
Profile Image for Susan Meissner.
Author 30 books5,749 followers
January 26, 2018
I adored this book. It was cleverly constructed, expertly researched, deeply moving and I couldn't wait to get to it at the end of the day, which is when I read for pleasure. Highly recommend, folks.
Profile Image for Angela M (On a little break).
1,270 reviews2,217 followers
March 27, 2018
3.5 stars
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Lori Elliott (semi-hiatus) .
715 reviews1,754 followers
March 7, 2018
I hate to not finish a book, however, we are in the process of moving and this is just not holding my interest. I’ve struggled to get 50% through and have no desire to fight my way through the rest. This story’s timeline bounces around a lot which is extremely distracting & I made the huge mistake of Googling the people mentioned which ruined the story for me. I’m a Googler when it comes to true events... it usually enhances the story for me by allowing me to picture the people & places. This time it backfired, big time.
Profile Image for Bam cooks the books ;-).
1,791 reviews214 followers
May 17, 2018
I admit to being endlessly fascinated with Romanov family history and with the woman who claimed to be Anastasia. So apparently is Ariel Lawhon, as she weaves together both those stories in her latest work of historical fiction: one, about the last tragic eighteen months of the Romanov family's lives told through the eyes of their youngest daughter and the second, about Anna Anderson who claimed to be Anastasia. Anna's story is told backwards chronologically--beginning with her last court case in 1970 and then regressing back through time (what happened before that, and before that and so on). Eventually the two stories come together and the reader sees why the author chose to tell her story in this manner.

It worked for me. I know a few readers have said that they abandoned the book because of this frustrating chronological structure, which keeps the reader off balance, making it hard to grasp the plot and remember names and places. But my advice is to stick with it: it does get easier to understand and there's a payoff at the end.

Ariel Lawhon has done some fine writing here. I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with both Annas! This book may launch me on another Russian literature craze!

Thank you to NetGalley, the author and publisher Doubleday for granting me the opportunity to read an arc of this fascinating new book. I am also grateful for receiving a hardcover copy through the Keep Turning Pages group giveaway.
Profile Image for Cindy Burnett (Thoughts from a Page).
547 reviews966 followers
November 12, 2017
The story of whether Anna Anderson was actually Anastasia Romanov has fascinated me since I was young. When discoveries were made relevant to this story, I followed them closely. Naturally, I was very excited to read I Was Anastasia, and I knew how the book would turn out (I am choosing my wording carefully because I do not want to spoil the ending for those unfamiliar with the tale). While I enjoyed the book, I had significant trouble following the story as it unfolded in I Was Anastasia. Lawhon chose to tell Anastasia’s story chronologically and Anna’s backwards through time making it very hard at times to understand where I was in the story. I also felt it could have been edited down a bit more.

I Was Anastasia is clearly a labor of love for Ariel Lawhon, and her research and effort show through in her retelling of Anna Anderson and Anastasia Romanov’s stories. Thanks to Doubleday for my ARC. All opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Erin.
2,818 reviews494 followers
July 4, 2019
Is there a better way to spend a lazy July afternoon than reading a great book? Because this non linear storyline that carries readers from the last eighteen months of the Romanov family's lives through the eyes of Anastasia to the world of Anna Anderson who claimed to be her was so freaking amazing. I have never read any of Ariel Lawhon's other books but I am definitely going to make them a priority now.

A favorite of 2019 and perhaps the best Romanov story I have ever read. Aside from the actual historical biographies written about them, of course. Well-researched, great pacing, and wow did I ever enjoy the backward storytelling in reference to Anna's life.

Goodreads review published 03/07/19
Profile Image for Magdalena aka A Bookaholic Swede.
1,911 reviews763 followers
March 19, 2018
You might have heard about Anna Anderson and her claim (to fame) to be Anastasia Romanov. But, if you haven't, then I suggest you google her and read up on her life. Anna Anderson's life was very interesting and it has btw been made into a movie with Ingrid Bergman and a miniseries with Amy Irving. I've seen both since I find the Romanov's a captivated subject.

I was curious to see how of Ariel Lawhon would construct the story since much has happened since Anna Anderson died in 1984. Now I take for granted that you know all about that, but if you don't know, then I will spoil the story a bit. Or rather I will reveal some truth's that may or may not be included in this book. So, read on if you dare!

Since Anna Anderson died in 1984 has two things happened, for one thing, has DNA showed that she was not Anastasia, and also the graves of the Romanov's family has been found with the bones of ALL the children. So, how do you write a book when this is well-known? Easy, you make the both Anna and Anastasia's stories so believable that you want it to be true.

All through the book does Anastasia's story interlopes with Anna's. We get to follow Anastasia through the years in captivity while Anna's story we get from the end unto the beginning. And, Anna's chapters. It's like reading a book backward. But, it works. It's very different, but it works so well. It's like two cars moving towards each other and you know they will crash, but you can't stop them!

I Was Anastasia is a great book. Reading the author's note at the end, where she wrote about wanting to believe that the story would be true made me realize that she made me want to believe that it's true that Anna was Anastasia. Because deep down we all want the story to have a happy ending...

I want to thank Doubleday Books for providing me with a free copy through NetGalley for an honest review!
Profile Image for Frank Phillips.
489 reviews238 followers
April 9, 2019
I read this one late into the night so this will be a brief review! Overall a really intriguing book in which there is a lot of jumping back and forth in time. At times the jumping back and forth in time can be a bit confusing, and that might be my only critique, if any, on this book. It's hard for me to rate this book because it's someone's life story, and a tragic one at that. You can really tell the author did her research even though she admits she took several liberties with the truth. The characters were for the most part very well developed, and i found myself absolutely hating some of the Bolsheviks!!! I was on the verge of tears at the end when the inevitable transpired, hoping that somehow a miracle occurred and this family was spared...Needless to say, I was a fan of the Romanovs well before this book came out, especially the mystery of Anastasia, and bought it when it was released just hadn't gotten around to reading it until now. I'm glad I read this now, as I was craving a historical fiction fix, and this story hit the spot. I think undoubtedly that this would be an excellent choice for historical fiction fans, mystery lovers, and even some romantic fans. Not a whole lot of action but a lot of insight was provided into the horrible last 18 months of Anastasia's life and even more so of Anna Anderson's life! I really enjoyed the way the ending unraveled, even though horrific as it may have been, the way this author went into great detail of that tragic night and I could feel myself in Ana's shoes. I was anxious and felt desperate for my life, as no doubt Ana was at the time. I enjoyed the resolution of the characters as well (it's hard to explain without spoiling!), finding it clever. I read the author's note so I know she has another forthcoming book along the lines of another one of history's mysteries, can't wait to catch this one!
Profile Image for Ann Marie (Lit·Wit·Wine·Dine).
189 reviews220 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
April 20, 2018
DNF'ing at page 93. I'm not really loving it and the horrible deaths and treatment of animals has totally turned me off.
Profile Image for Dianne.
6,765 reviews579 followers
March 15, 2018
After the entire Romanov family was brutally slaughtered by a drunken firing squad, the family’s bodies were spirited away, hidden from the world. When all seven bodies could not be accounted for, the rumors began, and a young woman became the vortex of decades of guesswork. Was Anna Anderson really Anastasia Romanov? Is it possible she survived the slaughter of 1918 only to have an attempted suicide thwarted when she was fished form a frigid canal? Is this woman fitting the basic description of Anastasia and carrying the scars of wounds inflicted by both bullets and blades more than an opportunist seeking fame, fortune and the family treasures? Is she a delusional lost soul clinging to a fantasy that would make her life so much more meaningful? Was she like a leopard trying to change its spots?

Ariel Lawhon’s I WAS ANASTASIA is a brilliantly complex and tumultuous tale of possibilities, with questions that can never be answered, of facts that are sketchy and suspect at best. One thing for sure, Ms. Lawhon’s two-pronged tale is fascinating, intriguing and very hard to put down!

Anastasia’s final days are laid out in a linear fashion, from her life at the palace to her life in a foreboding Siberian home where her pampered family was forced to become common-folk, doing common labor to survive. Anastasia is presented as a strong young woman, adaptable to the circumstances of her family’s new existence. Just reaching an age where young love can bloom, only to have her life stolen away.

Anna’s tale is much different as we meet an older Anna, still fighting to be recognized as Anastasia. Believers believed in her, or at least in her entertainment value. Benefactors were more than willing to champion her cause through court after court, continent after continent. We will see her life unfold in reverse until we reach the final truth of a woman who felt she deserved the life she was denied.

Fabulous reading, dark, detailed, gritty and magnetic. Regardless of the outcome, regardless of what history has proven, Ms. Lawhon’s version is spellbinding from start to finish and her treatment of each character reflects the chaos each one lived through, factual or manufactured.

I received a complimentary ARC edition from Doubleday Books!

Publisher: Doubleday (March 27, 2018)
Publication Date: March 27, 2018
Genre: Historical Fiction
Print Length: 344 pages
Available from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
For Reviews & More: http://tometender.blogspot.com
Profile Image for Historical Fiction.
919 reviews567 followers
July 14, 2018
Find this and other reviews at: https://historicalfictionreader.blogs...

I Was Anastasia marks my first experience with author Ariel Lawhon. I was familiar with the history behind the novel, but I didn’t have any real expectations when I picked it up and was more than a little surprised when the book proved almost impossible to put aside.

Lawhon’s style and tone captured my attention from the first line and refused to release its hold until the very end of the narrative. I hate to gush, but Lawhon’s ability to convey genuine tension is nothing short of brilliant. I knew where this story was going, but I still felt real fear and desperation in the musings and movements of both her leads and loved how their emotions emanated so distinctly from the page.

The drama of the story is enhanced by Lawhon's brazenly ambitious structuring of the narrative. Anastasia’s chapters progress chronologically, but Anna’s are inverted. The end result leaves the reader questioning if the two voices run parallel to one another or if they are in fact two parts of a singular whole. The finale itself is wonderful, but it should be understood that Lawhon was not writing about the answer so much as the question. The ambiguity of Anna’s origin and inability to definitely identify her during her lifetime immortalized Anastasia and I adore how Lawhon’s narrative plays on that reality.

The novel incorporates great historic details, but I will admit to struggling with a handful of scenes. As much as I loved the story, I was keenly aware that certain moments were based more on rumor rather than verifiable fact and while I appreciate what those passages brought in terms of storytelling, the history buff in me couldn’t help wrinkling her nose. Lawhon’s characterization of Anastasia was also more mature and worldly than I envision her, but at the end of the day, my only real comment on Lawhon’s interpretation is that it’s clear she favored Anna. I can’t presume to know why, but reading between the lines, the author seemed to have more fun with Anna’s chapters than she did Anastasia’s.

Imaginatively tenacious and creatively composed, I Was Anastasia brings life to a mystery that captivated the world for much of the twentieth century. Highly recommended. An absolute must-read.
Profile Image for Darla.
3,152 reviews449 followers
March 28, 2018
Thank you to Doubleday and Edelweiss for a digital ARC of this book.

It was helpful to see Ariel Lawhon's interview in the Goodreads newsletter just as I was beginning to read this book. I, too, am a fan of the movie Memento and found the nonlinear timeline of this book to be effective in raising the level of suspense. We read about Anastasia going forward in time while Anna Anderson (Is she or isn't she Anastasia?) going backward in time. As the two timelines converge we come closer and closer to an answer. I loved it!
Profile Image for ☮Karen.
1,450 reviews9 followers
November 13, 2017
Remember the thriller recently written completely in a reverse timeline, and readers either tolerated it or hated it? I didn't mind it too much, once used to it. Well, in this book only half of it goes backwards in time, but it bothered me anyway. The chapters alternate between Anna Anderson's story and Anastasia's. The Anastasia chapters slowly lead up to when the Romanov family is executed in 1918, and Anna's go from 1970 to around the time of the executions. Only at the end do we know how it all started.

I have been wondering... why another book on Anastasia; doesn't everyone already know this story? Have we not watched it played memorably by Ingrid Bergman in the great old film, Anastasia, and heard the countless rumors of a Romanov surviving? I was curious what this author could offer that wasn't already done. For me, a few more personal details, and a renewed curiosity about Anna Anderson. This is historical fiction and the author says she fudged on some details but not much.

All in all, I am not certain I'd recommend this one unless you do not already know the story, and even then a non-fiction might deliver better. I have enjoyed looking at some pictures of the two characters, and there was a definite facial resemblance. If this was my first time learning about the Romanovs, I am sure I would have rated it much higher. Knowing how it would end and failing to feel any real connection until the last couple of chapters sabotaged this experience for me, I'm afraid. Even so, some parts will remain memorable, I'm sure.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced copy.
Profile Image for Jocelyn Green.
Author 28 books1,167 followers
December 16, 2020
This is an amazing story, extremely well written. I was fascinated from the beginning. For a while, the structure of the book kind of threw me. We have two timelines, one of them that moves forward from 1917, and other that moves backward, until they meet together. What a concept for the format! For a while it bothered me that I had to think so hard, moving backwards all the time with the one timeline, but I did get used to it, and when I reached the end I could see why it had to be that way.

The ending was such a surprise, which at first made me mad and then drew my deepest and most ardent admiration for this author and what she did.

Sorry to be so cryptic with this review, but I don't want to spoil anything at all for you. It's well worth reading!
Profile Image for Katherine Gypson.
94 reviews11 followers
October 17, 2017
SPOILER ALERT: It's almost impossible to review this book without spoilers. Takeaway for those who don't want it spoiled - historical novel that sacrifices depth and character development for a gimmicky structure. DISCLAIMER: I received an advance copy of this book from Edelweiss in return for an honest review.

Ok, if you want to know more, scroll down

This is my first experience reading Ariel Lawhon and I'm deeply disappointed. I've been reading historical fiction for over twenty years and have been fascinated by the Romanovs almost as long. Lawhon has made some odd choices that box her into a corner with this book - the gimmicky "Memento" structure is set up so that you don't know Anna Anderson's true identity until the last pages of the book. Frankly, I don't understand why this increases the suspense. The reader knows the real Anastasia didn't escape and various clues are scattered throughout the book give away that Anna Anderson is not Anastasia.

Instead, the backwards-running structure prevents any kind of in-depth character development or insight into Anna Anderson. She's a gold mine for a writer in terms of psychological exploration but Lawhon can't do that but because she has to keep the "secret" going.

The forwards-running Anastasia timeline is decent although none of the Romanov family acts according to the time period or their documented personalities.

I'm actually offended that the marketing copy claims Lawhon is the first author "with the guts" to take on this story. Ariana Franklin crafted a compelling, atmospheric mystery taking this story on in "City of Shadows" and Mary Morrissey wrote a haunting look at the reasons a woman takes on another identity in "The Pretender." Try harder everyone - this is why I keep getting burned out on reading historical fiction
Profile Image for Karina.
767 reviews
May 9, 2022
"Almost all of them titled their paintings 'The Rape of the Sabine Women.'
Only in Latin can one root word be the basis for myriad appalling descriptors. Horrible, vulgar, violent words. Brutish and masculine. I hate them all and the language from which they originated. Latin deserves to be a dead language, and I do not mourn it." (PG. 315)


I wanted to like this one so much! but unfortunately it felt long and boring. I loved the Romanov scenes and once Anna Anderson came into the picture I couldn't stand her presence in the book. I felt her scheming all along. The author never did a good job of tricking me into Anderson being the missing Anastasia. She was a conniving opportunist.

I felt that at 400+ pages it was too long and the nonlinear timelines were a little crazy at first but once I got the hang of them I appreciated the author for being unique. I really enjoy Russian culture and history. Like, did you know Queen Elizabeth's husband, RIP, Prince Phillip is related to the Romanovs through both his mother and father? Doesn't that make one think we are all in cahoots with one another? We all have special interests in the other's country..... Food for thought.

The best part for me was the ending. I won't spoil it but it was an LOL tricked you moment from the author. Her author's note was also interesting and it showed her personality. I think I liked her more than her novel. It was just okay for me but I can see why many others would love this.
Profile Image for MaryBeth's Bookshelf.
365 reviews80 followers
April 24, 2018
In July 1918, Tsar Nicholas and the entire Romanov family was brutally murdered by the Bolsheviks. For decades people believed that Anastasia Romanov survived. This is that story told through two story lines - Lawhon flips back and forth in time, telling us about the final months the Romanov family and then the subsequent years when people tried to prove that Anastasia Romanov survived the murders.

I loved Lawhon's style of telling the story in pieces, jumping back and forth in time. I was completely sucked in to the story and was completely taken aback at the ending. Highly recommend!

Profile Image for Tracey.
161 reviews9 followers
November 12, 2017
WOW! Just, a 5+ stars WOW!

A big Thank you goes out to Netgalley/Doubleday Publishing and the author Ariel Lawhon for an advanced ebook copy.

“Am I truly Anastasia Romanov? A beloved daughter. A revered icon. A Russian grand duchess.”

This book was just exquisite! When I was around 12 years old I became interested in the Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia/Anna Anderson story. And just young enough and romantic enough to believe Anna was truly the Grand Duchess and survived the Revolution. But, like most young dreams and fantasies it was not to be.

I’m honestly having a hard time with this review because there are no words that would adequately describe this book. The Anna Anderson timeline itself starts in the present and works backwards with parts of Anastasia's life woven in which is going forward. And this was absolutely brilliant! I loved how the author gave us descriptions of the Romanov’s days as captives, I don’t ever remember reading details quite like this before. I knew how the ending was going to be, but I was still tense and anxious like this was my first reading of the Tsar family story. Then Ariel gifts us with this awesome last chapter followed by an internal dialogue of Anna Anderson, which was very astute. And then follows that with the best Author’s note ever.

I am sure most if not all know the ending to this story, I say, Read. It. Anyway. This book has become my favorite historical read of 2017! And that book cover is my absolute favorite, ever! Gorgeous! Ariel Lawhon you have found a forever fan.

Profile Image for Jerecho.
383 reviews48 followers
March 23, 2021
Another Romanov book... Got this one in 2018... Read in 2021... Minus one to my tbr.

I like this one. Slow at first, then the excitement comes a little quite good in the middle through the end. And the author's note summarize it all... No just just kidding but almost 😂🤣😄

A great read for people who love anastasia romanov novels... The mystery and another pov and quite a good angle...
Profile Image for Pam Jenoff.
Author 28 books4,897 followers
November 3, 2018
Whether you have always been fascinated by the mystery Anastasia Romanov or are diving into it for the first time, you will be enraptured by this accounting of Anna Anderson 50 year odyssey to be recognized as the surviving member of the Russian dynasty.
Profile Image for Mallory.
982 reviews52 followers
August 7, 2022
I didn’t know much about Anna Anderson or her claims to Anastasia Romanov before reading this book. I was interested because it’s an interesting piece of history. I like the dual timeline piece of this story, but I don’t think the perspectives needed to jump quite so much and so rapidly. I would have liked a little more consistency. For instance in a past chapter it will jump from one point to 3 days before to two months after etc. Overall I liked this story and the writing style, I will be reading more from this author.
Profile Image for Amy Leigh.
327 reviews38 followers
April 16, 2018
This cover is gorgeous but that isn't even what attracted me to this book. It was Anastasia. I first fell in love with Anastasia when I saw the animated movie about her. I love reading anything about Anastasia and this historical fiction wasn't just intriguing, it was impossible to put down! There is, of course, some brutality when you read about what happened to the Romanov family. If you've never read anything about Anastasia I would highly recommend this book and then deep dive into historical fact.

This book follows the life of Anastasia in chronological order all the way from political undermining to the brutal end to the Romanov royal family and Anastasia's disappearance. The in reverse chronological order it follows Anna Anderson, the girl who claimed to be Anastasia all the way to her death and the struggles she endured. When the stories meet it is amazing!

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing this arc in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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