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Description - Anastasia by Peter Kurth

On 17 February 1920 a young woman was rescued from a Berlin canal and taken to a local asylum. Her body bore the scars of bullet and bayonet wounds. For a long time she refused to give her name, and was known as Fraulein Unbekannt (Miss Unknown). When she did declare herself - as the Grand Duchess Anastasia, youngest daughter of the murdered Romanovs - she became the centre of a storm of controversy that still continues after her death in 1983. Peter Kurth's brilliant and meticulously researched account shows that the evidence that Anna Anderson was Anastasia is in the end overwhelming. Nevertheless the extraordinary secrecy which still shrouds some of the key evidence suggests that, as her uncle the Grand Duke of Hesse wrote, an investigation of her identity could be 'dangerous'.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780712662673
ISBN-10: 0712662677
Format: Paperback
(234mm x 153mm x 32mm)
Pages: 480
Imprint: Pimlico
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 5-Jan-1995
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Book Reviews - Anastasia by Peter Kurth

US Kirkus Review » " 'I think we're drowning in detail,' said Judge Werkmeister after two months on the 'Anastasia' ease." And most readers will probably feel similarly about this 480-page documentary - which is more exhaustive than involving, lacking the selective focus needed to engage those who don't share Kurth's "impassioned" interest in the case. Two major points do emerge here: the miseries of Anna Anderson (whom Kurth implicitly but quite clearly believes to be the bona fide Grand Duchess Anastasia, daughter of Czar Nicholas II) were to some degree self-inflicted, with Anastasia's paranoia forever alienating her many well-wishers; still, the primary villains, in Kurth's view, were the Romanov survivors and their cohorts, emigres whose obsession with "pride and appearances overruled compassion and condemned a human being to a life in a bitter universe of imputation and doubt." Unfortunately, however, these points aren't dramatic enough to hold Kurth's narrative together - as it moves slowly (especially slowly in the 1920s) through each of Anastasia's encounters with a huge cast of emigres, Germans, Americans, doctors, and journalists. She is followed from a Berlin hospital in 1920 (after a suicide attempt) to first, disastrous meetings with Romanov relatives; from one indulgent protector to another ("The story was getting too familiar: Anastasia had thrown over one of her 'ladies-in-waiting' "); from Germany to N.Y. for 18 "tragi-comic months of life as the Toast of Society"; from breakdown to breakdown, winding up virtually kidnapped back to a German asylum; and then, after 25 quickly-sketched years as a virtual recluse, from one German court to another - suing for recognition as the Grand Duchess. Kurth, though never minimizing Anastasia's off-putting behavior, is a conscientious but partisan interpreter of the massive documentary materials at hand - sarcastically scorning the arguments of Anastasia's enemies, suggesting that mercenary motives (involving the perhaps-still-secreted Romanov fortune) were at work, finding "a tendency on the judges' part to credit automatically the testimony of Anastasia's opponents. . . ." (On final appeal, a higher court found the identity neither proven nor disproven.) He chronicles the dozens of tests, confrontations, and questions involved in the identity-quest. And his writing is always solid, sometimes stylish. Finally, however, this impressive amalgamation of far-flung sources seems to work fully neither as an evidence-summation nor as a study in period-and-personality (Anastasia herself remains elusive) - and only Anastasia buffs are likely to be steadily engrossed. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Peter Kurth

Peter Kurth's previous bestselling titles include Isadora: A Sensational Life, and a biography of the anti-fascist journalist Dorothy Thompson, American Cassandra: The Life of Dorothy Thompson. His essays have appeared in Salon, Vanity Fair, New York Times Book Review, and many others. Peter lives in Burlington, Vermont.

Books By Peter Kurth

Isadora by Peter Kurth
Paperback, February 2003