Check It Out: I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon

Jul 13, 2020

This is Jessi Wakefield with the Sioux City Public Library and you’re listening to Check It Out. 

The mystery that surrounds Anastasia Romanov is something that has captured the western world for a century now. Was she the sole survivor of the Bolshevik uprising in Russia, or did she perish with the rest of her royal family? This is what author Ariel Lawhon tackles in her very compelling 2018 novel, I Was Anastasia.

Taking factual events and individuals, Lawhon tells the 60-year journey of Anna Anderson, a woman who unfalteringly claims that she is Anastasia Romanov, Duchess of Russia, last of the monarchy. She has lived a nomadic life, traveling from country to country staying with friends and benefactors. There are those wanting to take advantage of her, trying to leach anything and everything they can from this legendary icon. Then there are also those who don’t believe Anna is who she claims to be. There is constant questioning everywhere she goes, court trials in several countries, public ridicule, and endless accusations of stealing another woman’s legacy.

Lawhon takes the reader on a nonlinear journey through time, as we follow The Romanov family in 1917 and 1918 and Anna Anderson throughout the 20th century. There is quite a bit of time jumping, but Lawhon does a stellar job in keeping things straight in the reader’s mind. Her immaculate research peppered throughout this gripping narrative allows the reader to root for Anna. But as you read, there’s a kernel of doubt that grows in the back of your mind wondering if she isn’t just a cunning charlatan and world class actress.  Whether she truly is Anastasia or not, her mere existence has kept the Romanov name alive and turned a little monarch who would probably be overlooked through time into a modern-day legend. 

If I Was Anastasia by Arial Lawhon sounds compelling to you, please contact the Sioux City Public Library for your copy or other historical fiction titles. 

Support for Check It Out on Siouxland Public Media comes from Avery Brothers.