Anastasia: A novel
Bantam, $25.95 pb, 372 pp
What’s a nice girl called Anastasia doing in the Whangpoa River? Maybe she’s the daughter of the last tsar who everyone thought was dead, or maybe it’s just a girl who looks like a Russian princess and happens to have the same name. If the proposition sounds familiar, be assured by Colin Falconer that Anastasia Romanovs were thick on the streets of Shanghai after the White Russian diaspora of 1917–18.
Of course, this beautiful blonde waif, who remembers little more than her name (though wouldn’t she have said Romanova, as in Anna Karenina?), can’t really be the Anastasia. Recent DNA tests have put paid to that. But the point is that, back in 1921, she might have been. This youngest daughter could conceivably not have died at Ekaterinburg along with her parents, three sisters, the haemophiliac heir to the throne of all the Russias, and four of the family’s retinue. The rumours of Anastasia’s continuing existence were in fact many, fed by glittering dreams of countless roubles. The fabled millions stashed away before the family was murdered would flow into the hands of any minder of an authentic, resurrected princess. Or so thought the greedy. Only American Michael Sheridan, rebellious and handsome with his winsome cowlick and dark blue eyes, who jumps into the river to rescue the girl from her watery grave, is above materialism. Michael has already thrown off a wealthy heritage to hack out a career as a foreign journalist.