The Enchantments by Kathryn Harrison Book Review

The Enchantments

Author: Kathryn Harrison

Released: March 6, 2012 Random House

Length: 314 pages

Edition: paperback

Genre: Russian Historical Fiction

Rating: DNF

St. Petersburg, 1917. After Rasputin’s body is pulled from the icy waters of the Neva River, his eighteen-year-old daughter, Masha, is sent to live at the imperial palace with Tsar Nikolay and his family—including the headstrong Prince Alyosha. Desperately hoping that Masha has inherited Rasputin’s miraculous healing powers, Tsarina Alexandra asks her to tend to Aloysha, who suffers from hemophilia, a blood disease that keeps the boy confined to his sickbed, lest a simple scrape or bump prove fatal. synopsis 

The Enchantments begins with the murder of Rasputin. Cruelly murdered, Rasputin is found in the Neva River where people gather around the tiny ice patch to gather the now sacred water. His two daughters, Masha and Varya are then whisked away to stay under the care of the Tsar and Tsarina. Confused and grieving, Masha is thrown into a grave situation–she is asked to care for the Prince Aloysha who is very sick. His mother, Tsarina Alexandra is convinced Masha has inherited her dad’s abilities. What follows, is that belongs to no one–the Tsar’s rule is over. Placed under strict house arrest, each person must find a renewed sense of wanting to live.

This is the first book I have not finished this year; and marked as a DNF. I tried to like it. The narrative flip flops between reality, the past, fables and the like, and the current truths. It was hard to know what was what. I would read a section thinking it was a past memory, but instead it was Masha telling a story to Prince Aloysha. Was everything she said even true then? It was really hard to know the difference.

The narrative writing itself fell short for me. It wasn’t very interesting; often times feeling bland and confusing. I read one hundred and thirty pages until I decided to put it down. It took me almost two weeks, with only three reading sessions, to get to that point. I could no longer continue. It wasn’t holding my attention strongly enough.

This book was a NY Times notable read for 2012, but I am not sure I am in agreement with that. The synopsis sounds great. I have had interest in the Romanovs for some time. This just didn’t work for me. I am not always expecting a straight read through of a novel; I like twists and turns as much as the next person. I want to be kept on my toes. I just didn’t feel that way with this novel. I was more detached than anything.

I can’t say I recommend this book. I know Kathryn Harrison is an established author, but I don’t see myself giving her a second chance. I had so high hopes for this. Unfortunately, if it doesn’t hold your attention for more than twenty minutes at a time it’s not worth continuing. If this does still sound up your alley, by all means read it. We may have a varying opinion. I won’t say not to read it. It just wasn’t for me.

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