Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Anastasia's Secret

Anastasia's Secret

Susan Dunlap
Historical Fiction
For ages 12 and up
Bloomsbury Books, 2010   ISBN: 978-1599904207

Grand Duchess Anastasia is walking in the palace garden one day when she comes across a young man who is playing the balalaika. Instead of bowing and scraping to her, the young man, Sasha, starts to talk to the young girl, and in no time at all they are chatting as if they have known one another for years.

Anastasia does not see Sasha for some time after this meeting, but when she does, she has much to ask him. It is 1914 and things are changing in Russia. The people do not seem to love the Tsar they way they used to, and when war breaks out the situation rapidly becomes worse. Sasha tells the youngest daughter of the Tsar that she really has no idea what it means to be a “normal person” and he agrees to show her how the average Russian lives. To her horror, Anastasia sees that the people living not far from the beautiful Alexander Palace are living in miserable squalor. How can this be? How can her father not be aware that his people are suffering so much?

As the war claims more and more Russian lives and as the Russian generals lose ground to the enemy, the hostility towards the imperial family escalates. Sasha does his best to keep Anastasia informed, but then he is sent to the front and the grand duchess has no idea where he is or what has happened to him. She worries about him every day and holds the secret of their friendship close to her heart, hoping that he will not be killed or injured.

This beautiful story brings the last years of Anastasia Romanova’s to life, giving readers a picture of what is was like to be a member of the Russian royal family as the empire was falling apart. Anastasia’s touching and often painful relationship with Sasha contrasts strongly with the terrible things that were happening in Russia from 1914 to 1918, and readers will come to appreciate that the royal children were not that different from other youngsters. They truly were victims of ill chance.