For more than a century, the fate of the Anastasia Romanov has remained a mystery. Was she murdered with her family in 1918? Or did she find a way to escape the massacre?
Ariel Lawhorn‘s 2018 novel, I was Anastasia, both asks and answers this question. It starts in the late 1960’s with a woman named Anna Anderson. The press has been hounding her, determined to get the truth from her. The book then flashes back and forth through time from the end of the Romanov rule to the 1920’s when a young woman is pulled from a canal. Though she claims to be Anastasia, there are many who believe her to be a con artist, a mental patient, or both.
The best word to describe this book was promise. It is a promise that failed. The ending was confusing and the author did not provide the response to the question she posed at the beggining of the novel.
The question of nature vs. nurture is a tempting one to ask. Does our upbringing dictate who we are and what we believe? Or is it our perception of ourselves and the world around us?
Cruella was released yesterday on DisneyPlus. Estella/Cruella De Vil (played by Tipper Seifert-Cleveland as a child and Emma Stone as an adult) has been a rebel and an outcast since she was young. Raised by her single mother, she is left parentless at 12. Arriving in London with only her dog as a companion, she finds family in the form of thieves Horace (Paul Walter Hauser) and Jasper (Joel Fry). Ten years later, they have become a trio.
But Estella wants more out of life than petty thievery. She wants to be a fashion designer. Fate sends her the opportunity she is praying via the Baroness (Emma Thompson). The Baroness is the queen of the English fashion scene. She is also self centered and selfish. What starts out as a door opening to the job of her dreams turns Estella/Cruella into a version of the person she wants to destroy. The question is, can our heroine keep up with the image she has created while being true to herself or will she sell her soul in the process?
What I loved is that this movie it proves that a female led movie does not require a romantic narrative to be successful. There are male characters who have a significant role in the narrative, but their relationships with the Baroness and Estella/Cruella are of a professional and/or plutonic nature.
Among the Disney prequels that have come out as of late, this is the best one. Though there is the argument of an easy cash grab, there are more than enough Easter eggs to keep fans of the original film happy. Expanded beyond the original narrative, it is a loving homage to its predecessor while standing on its own two feet.
The founder of anything, specifically when you are a member of a group who has been disenfranchised is more than the creation itself. It is breaking boundaries and making it easier for future generations to follow in your footsteps.
In the 1960’s and 1970’s, the career doors were starting to bust open for women. At the same time, the concept of radio was also changing. In April of 1971, NPR aired its first broadcast. As with many new businesses, they had open jobs to fill and were not as picky about who they hired as more established enterprises. As the years passed, these women became formidable and respected, changing the game and giving new voice to those who in the past had been silenced.
Though it is a little slow to start, when it takes off, it really takes off. It is a fascinating read, What I found interesting, is that this book is not just the individual stories of these women. It is the story of how women in general have come a long way in only half a century.
As a fan of NPR and avid listener of my local station, WNYC, it is a good read that is well worth your time.