The Lost Crown tells the story of the Bolshevik Revolution from the viewpoints of the four daughters of Tsar Nicholas II: Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia. Through everyday activities while under house arrest and as the family is moved to different locations, their personalities and the family dynamic are revealed. Constantly under the watch of a series of commandants and soldiers, the tension in the story rises as the revolution intensifies, and the commandants become less sympathetic to their captives. All but one of the daughters is naïve to the growing danger that builds outside their walls.
The author shows the excessive wealth of the Imperial family without commentary. The reader, presented with wonderful detail, is allowed to decide for themselves. Tsar Nicholas reads that the family wineries have been looted by soldiers and calls them gluttons. One daughter recalls the extravagant tombstones on the graves of former pets. And while the Russian people suffer, the family secretly sews most of their great fortune of gemstones and pearls—about 18 pounds worth—into their clothing. The jewels become like a millstone around their necks but play a much larger role at the end.
Writing about such characters would be a slippery slope in the hands of a less skilled author. It would be easy for us not to care. Miller makes the daughters sympathetic characters by showing how much they love each other and that at times the family displays heart and appreciation for simple things. And they have big worries: their younger brother, Alexei, is a hemophiliac, and the family’s situation is increasingly precarious:
”Olga comforts herself reading psalms late into the night, but even after she turns off her bedside lamp, neither of us can sleep. ‘This Lenin isn’t good for us, is he?’ Her voice drifts across the darkness between our cots like smoke from a censer. ‘I saw your face when Pap read this name, and I’ve overheard enough about the Bolsheviks to know Russia is never going to be the same.’”
The author ends with an epilogue with photographs of the family—some during their house arrest, along with specific details of their deaths, and an extensive bibliography. A fascinating read.
—Kari Baumbach, children’s literature enthusiast
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