Monday, March 26, 2012

Fiction: Enchantments by Kathryn Harrison

For a very long time, the prominent figures of Russian history have been left pretty much alone by fictionists. Then came 2012.

Earlier this year, I wrote about The Winter Palace by Eva Strachniak. That book is a fictionalized account of the sexually charged life of Catherine the Great. Now international bestseller Kathryn Harrison (While They Slept, The Kiss) brings us a searing historical novel about the fall of the Romanovs told from the perspective of Rasputin’s daughter.

It’s a good place to enter this story. Close up and personal enough to give us a ring-side seat, yet the perspective is removed enough from actual historical people that it gives Harrison room to play. And she does.

Enchantments (Random House) is a beautiful, and often surprisingly touching, book. Harrison has proven herself adept at involving us in weirdly angular family dramas which she does here again.

After Rasputin is hauled dead from the river, his 18-year-old daughter, Masha, takes his place at the bedside of the hemophiliac Romanov prince, Aloysha. Her mission is to help heal the prince and, with him, the empire. But we all know how that turned out. Even so, Enchantments is an unlikely and strangely beautiful love story.

Harrison’s growing army of fans will not be disappointed with Enchantments. The writer here gets back to the her historical roots to very good effect. ◊

Monica Stark is a contributing editor to January Magazine. She currently makes her home on a liveaboard boat somewhere in the North Pacific.

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Blogger Trish Saunders said...

Monica Stark has somehow managed to read my mind. I've often wondered why more novelists haven't mined the rich history of modern Russia. I will look for Enchantments.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012 at 8:49:00 AM PDT  

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