Welch, Frances 1957–
Welch, Frances 1957–
Born February 11, 1957.
(Contributor of interviews, with Elena Snow) Memories of Revolution: Russian Women Remember, edited by Anna Horsbrugh-Porter, Routledge (New York, NY), 1993.
The Romanovs & Mr. Gibbes: The Story of the Englishman Who Taught the Children of the Last Tsar, Short Books (London, England), 2002.
A Romanov Fantasy: Life at the Court of Anna Anderson, W.W. Norton (New York, NY), 2007.
Frances Welch is a freelance journalist. She has written a number of books, primarily dealing with revolutionary Russia and the Russian royal family, who were murdered in 1918.
Welch published A Romanov Fantasy: Life at the Court of Anna Anderson in 2007. The account looks at the life of Anna Anderson, a Polish factory worker who, after a suicide attempt, claimed to be Anastasia, the youngest daughter of Russian czar Nicholas II. For decades she weathered challenges from skeptics and acted almost indifferently to those who believed her claim, which was officially disproved by DNA testing after her death in 1984.
Kathryn Hughes, writing in the Guardian, remarked that A Romanov Fantasy is a "thrillingly readable book," adding that "Welch provides some wonderful pen sketches of dispossessed Russian courtiers, now condemned to eke out a living as best they can." As for the reasons why Anderson pretended for so long to be Anastasia, Hughes proposed that "Welch is too fastidious a scholar to speculate on her behalf." Regina Marler, reviewing the book in the Los Angeles Times, commented that the book "is a conscientious and often riveting account of Anna's story, but Welch resists interpreting Anna's motives or mental condition." Marler appended that Welch's "hands-off approach to Anna's inner life would be more satisfying if Welch had left her readers in suspense for a while about Anna's actual identity. But we are quickly told that Anna was Franziska. Like one of those magicians who lets you in on the secret of the lady sawed in half, Welch doesn't waste a word sustaining the Anna illusion."
London Telegraph contributor Charlotte Hobson concluded that "Welch plots this tragicomic mess of self-deception with the humour and sympathy of her delightful first book, The Romanovs & Mr. Gibbes: The Story of the Englishman Who Taught the Children of the Last Tsar. None the less, there is a limit to the amount one wants to know about Anna Anderson, a singularly unpleasant character, whatever her delusions." Simon Castles, writing in the Melbourne Age, asked: "Did Anderson herself come to believe she really was the Grand Duchess? It's impossible to know. And Welch, ever the exacting scholar, doesn't go in much for speculation. It's the book's single minor failing: Welch should have shared more of her thoughts—mused a little more wildly—on the woman at the centre of the fantasy." Booklist contributor Brad Hooper mentioned that "European history buffs will treat this well-researched work like a delicious dessert." A contributor to Publishers Weekly described this "compelling history" as "a testament to the power of self-delusion and the desperate human need to believe in something bigger than ourselves." A contributor to Kirkus Reviews found the account to be an "engaging examination of a false identity," adding that it is "scrupulously mined" by the author. Mary C. Allen, writing in Library Journal, noted that the author "writes compellingly" and "offers engrossing insights, leaving the DNA-derived answer to the final chapter."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Age (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), May 18, 2007, Simon Castles, review of A Romanov Fantasy: Life at the Court of Anna Anderson.
Booklist, September 1, 2007, Brad Hooper, review of A Romanov Fantasy, p. 43.
Guardian (London, England), March 10, 2007, Kathryn Hughes, review of A Romanov Fantasy.
Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2007, review of A Romanov Fantasy.
Library Journal, August 1, 2007, Mary C. Allen, review of A Romanov Fantasy, p. 97.
London Review of Books, August 2, 2007, Ferdinand Mount, review of A Romanov Fantasy, p. 19.
Los Angeles Times, November 30, 2007, Regina Marler, review of A Romanov Fantasy.
Publishers Weekly, July 23, 2007, review of A Romanov Fantasy, p. 58.
Telegraph (London, England), February 18, 2007, Charlotte Hobson, review of A Romanov Fantasy.
Times Literary Supplement, August 30, 2002, review of The Romanovs & Mr. Gibbes: The Story of the Englishman Who Taught the Children of the Last Tsar, p. 26.