"Although I had read Robert K. Massie’s novel “Nicholas and Alexandra,” I hadn’t remembered that the so-called “Mad Monk of Russia,” Grigori Rasputin had a family. His two daughters, Varya and Mary (Masha) were living with him in St. Petersburg when he was dramatically murdered in 1916.
After his death, the two girls are quickly spirited away and taken to live at the Tsar’s family home in the country, Tsarskoe Selo. The Empress somehow mistakenly believes that Masha has the same healing powers as her father. After the royal family is taken to Yekaterinburg in the Ural Mountains and summarily murdered, Masha manages to escape to Germany and later to North America, where she works as a dancer and later in a circus. She died in 1977.
In this clearly literary work, the first person narrative of Masha is a mixture of fact, mysticism, and allegory, and includes flashbacks to the mad monk’s life. It was often difficult to figure out where the facts left off and fantasy began. One example is the description of the accession of Tsar Nicolas. Somehow, according to Masha, the devil worked his way into the proceedings.
Although the author’s lyrical style is beautifully poetic, I found the book often tedious to read and I kept looking to see how many pages were left. There were many times when I put it down with the thought that I just can’t wade through this anymore. The best-drawn and most interesting character in the book is the young, Tsarevich Alexei Nikolayevich. He appears to have a much better grasp of what is happening to his country than his father did; and the book leads one to believe that, had he lived to rule, he might have saved Russia from its disastrous fall to communism.
As interested as I am in Russian history and especially in those last years of the Romanov family, I found this book a real chore to read."