TITLE: Rasputin's Daughter
AUTHOR: Robert Alexander
GENRE: Historical Fiction
SOURCE: Local Library
Goodreads / Author's Website
Rasputin's Daughter is the story of Maria Rasputin in the days leading up to her infamous father's murder. It reads like a memoir. Maria talks about her father in familiar terms and it is written entirely in the first person. It is easy to believe that this books is a piece of non-fiction, but it's not. It's a fictional take on the lives of real people. Honestly, it left me wondering why I wasn't reading well researched historical non-fiction as Rasputin's Daughter left me not so much caring about the characters as wanting different historical perspectives on them.
Rasputin lives on today throughout popular culture as a figure of evil, myths surrounding his relationships and death live on (come on, you can't tell me you didn't think of Ra-ra-rasputine lover of the Russian queen when you first saw this title). Here's the thing, this book offers a very different take on Rasputin. It attempts to tell his story from his daughter's perspective.
Now, Maria Rasputin existed and she did escape Russia for America. That's all fact. She also wrote memoirs defending her father's memory and from what I can remember, painted quite the saintly portrait of him. This comes across in this book. Although Alexander attempts to make Maria a well rounded character, questioning her father's motives. He tells a not so typical coming of age story; Maria is going through what many other young people go through, the de-deification of one's parents, but under much more extraordinary circumstances. It was an interesting take on this kind of story. That part was interesting. I liked reading about Maria's furthering disillusionment and how it interacted with her deep familial love. It was compelling. It made her feel real.
However, it never answered my question. Why don't I just read Maria's memoirs? This book was good as a starting point. It fueled a lot of questions, but answered very few. It created a need to research to further understand this enigmatic man. However, as a work of literature in and of itself, i'm not quite sure it succeeded. I should want to read the book again because the story is so interesting or because I just couldn't put it down the first time. Instead, I picked this book up and put it back down a few times. It was a bit of a slog and I just kept thinking, I could gain much better perspective on this topic if I read something peer reviewed. Yes. I'm that nerdy. But when all I really have to say about a book is that the historical perspective was interesting, something's wrong.
Portions of the story were interesting as I said, but why was there a love story tacked onto it? That I didn't understand. Large portions of it could be cut without losing a lot. The story focused so much on a father/daughter relationship that I don't think this particular coming of age story would have lost much by not having a romantic interest. It was unnecessary and slowed down the story that I actually wanted to read.
Alexander succeeded in making me want to further study the Romanov's, but the book itself was not as interesting as it could have been. I love historical fiction and when it's good it blends the history and era together with an original, fictional piece. However, that's far trickier to do when utilizing characters based entirely off of actual history figures. It gives the author far less wiggle room and in this case I don't think it quite succeeded as a work of literary fiction.