Monday, March 26, 2012

An Aptly Titled Novel - "Enchantments" by Kathryn Harrison

Rasputin's daughter, Masha, forms a unique bond with the Tsarevich, Alyosha Romanov. Such is the premise of this thoroughly delightful story. Author Kathryn Harrison became intrigued with Russia and its last tsar when she was a girl. As she grew into womanhood, her fascination with the Romanovs and Rasputins expanded along with her literary sensibilities.

The result is that we are now treated to an absolutely enchanting tale in her new novel, "Enchantments." The enchantments in the story are manifold. Rasputin "enchants" the Tsarina and eventually Tsar Nicholas, as well as a long train of female petitioners who succumb to his charms. After Rasputin is murdered,his youngest surviving daughter, Masha, is brought to the Romanov's private Xanadu, Tsarskoe Selo, to amuse and perhaps to enchant the ailing Tsarevich Alyosha, a victim of the royal hemophilia.

The relationship that forms between Masha and Alyosha servesas the emotional core of the novel,and also serves as a wonder platform for fantastic storytelling. This historical novel is based partly on the fact that Rasputin's daughter did survive and eventually went to live in America, where she fulfilled her lifelong wish of performing as an equestrienne and animal trainer. Harrison is deeply influenced by the surrealism of Mikhail Bulgakov, author of "The Master and Margarita." That influence adds a magical and phantasmagorical cast to the novel. I found myself caring about the fate of each one of the colorful characters and mourned the passing of the Romanovs, even though I knew at the outset of reading the book what their fate would be at Yekatarinaburg.

This is wonderful and inspiring writing.



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