Thursday, February 28, 2019

Review: Anastasia by Colin Falconer

I loved this book. French author, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry once wrote that perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. Colin Falconer's Anastasia is a slim book that recalls the very best masterpieces. For me, it is now a modern classic. 

I am passionate about the Russian Revolution and the murder of the Romanovs but what initially drew me to this novel was promises of time travel to 1920s Shanghai, Berlin and New York. I was not disappointed. Colin Falconer's wonderfully scribed vivid descriptions transported me to the bars and nightclubs of Shanghai with its expat soirées and its seedy Triad underworld, before sweeping me away to the sexual decadence and currency collapse of Weimar Berlin. Soon after, I was indulging in London's tea houses and flapper period, casting an uneasy eye on rising unemployment, before finally leading a ritzy life in 5th Avenue New York prior to the Wall Street collapse. 

If all this travel wasn't enough, Colin Falconer also managed to paint glimpses into Lenin's Russia and make poignant observations on the Revolution's disappointing aftermath.
In this passage, the main character, journalist Michael Sheridan, travels to Petrograd (now St Petersburg) where he attempts to uncover evidence to prove that the love of his life is or is not the late Anastasia Romanov. Michael's visit to the room where the Romanovs were murdered is particularly harrowing. I was left with a feeling not evoked by other novels dealing with the same subject. 

In his depiction of all cities, I loved the author's keen eye for the tragic pantomimes of excess and how these are often bound to chaos and misery. Even his female character, Anastasia, assuming she were a Romanov, would embody the idea of aristocracy toppled by Revolution; wealth's sudden descent into poverty. 
Through conflicting desires, Anastasia strives to survive, reminding the reader constantly of the fine line between fortune and destitution.

I whizzed through the suspenseful second part of this book which saw Michael putting on his ruthless journalist cap and going to war with the very scum of stockbrokers. With the aid of an unlikely ally, he uncovers a stunning revelation filled with political intrigue about the fate of the Romanov fortune. 

This is a fantastic novel packed with social insights; it combines elements of romance, mystery and intrigue. Highly recommended.

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