Virginia B. (Foster, RI)
A matter of trust
The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak is an engrossing, well-written historical fiction about the Russian court of Empress Elizabeth during the 1700’s told from an interesting point of view. The narrator is the daughter of a bookbinder who is thrust into the court upon the death of her father when she is only a child. Bright, inquisitive, lonely and starved for attention Varvara is trained by Elizabeth’s Chancellor to become his spy. Her loyalties shift when Catherine, the German girl sent to Russia at 14 to marry the Empress’s nephew, forms a friendship with her. Intrigue, sex, gossip and luxuriant descriptions of the opulent court make this novel a delightful, realistic step back in time. I look forward to the next novel about Catherine the Great, The Empire of the Night. Those who have enjoyed Carr’s novels about the English Court will enjoy reading this as well.
Virginia P. (Tallahassee, FL)
The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak
"The spies you learn about are either those who get exposed or those who reveal themselves." In the first sentence of this novel, the author lays the groundwork for what is to follow, a story of secrets kept and revealed and a captivating tale of mid 18th century Russia prior to and during the early reign of Catherine the Great. Stachiniak's descriptions are lush and her characters, well drawn. Intertwining with Catherine's life is that of her confidante, Barbara, whose loyalty perhaps exceeds that of most of the others players in this tale. The author apparently has a vast knowledge of Russian history which moves along with the story and leaves you wanting to increase your own knowledge. It was an enjoyable book.
Leslie G. (Mililani, HI)
Gripping tale of intrigue and drama in the Russian court
I was completely drawn in by the characters in the drama of daily life in this decadent and luxurious court. It was hard to put this down even though I didn't want it to end. As a German from Russia, it became clearer as to why there are so many Katrina, Katrine, Catharines in the family tree. I particularly liked that the story was "narrated" by a commoner that became one of Catherine's most trusted confidants. This book would appeal most to those drawn to historical fiction full of intrigue and suspense. It would also be a great book club selection as there is so much to discuss. Looking forward to the next book already.
Marie D. (Waretown, NJ)
Life as a royal — a life filled with intrique!
I looked forward to reading The Winter Palace especially since I have wonderful recollections of my visit to St. Petersburg in 2009. Vivid memories of the Winter Palace/Hermitage and Catherine’s “summer” palace at Oranienbaum created a sense of place as I read the book. I could “see” the vista of the Neva River, the Great Perspective Road. My issue with the book, so well crafted and filled with fascinating details, was my need to really know what was fact and what was fiction. The Winter Palace was a great read – now I intend to follow up on the life of Catherine in the history aisle! Are there Varenkas — or “tongues” at work in high places today? I would say very likely. Does power corrupt? You betcha! Ms. Stachniak must tell us “the rest of the story” in a sequel.
Barbara S. (Glen Ellyn, Illinois)
The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak
THE WINTER PALACE, a novel of Catherine the Great of Russia by Eva Stachniak is a very detailed picture of the Russian Court during the 1700’s. Their lives were harsh, complicated, yet fascinating. The book begins in 1743 when Catherine arrives at the Russian court as a princess from Germany. Eva Stachniak has beautifully described the intrigues of the Russian Court and Catherine’s journey to Empress of Russia. This book was enthralling – cover to cover.
Florence K. (Encino, California)
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Winter Palace. The author's clever use of a young Polish commoner. Varvara, to be the eyes and ears of both Empress Elizabeth and her nephew's wife Catherine and to divulge what went on in royal Russian chambers was a fascinating way to describe the spying, the lying, the crying, the betrayals of that time and place. Catherine had to overcome a myriad of obstacles: an unmaternal mother, a loveless marriage to Grand Duke Peter, an indolent and childlike disinterested bridegroom, and pressure to produce an heir. The book was well researched and crisply written. I'm looking forward to reading the author's sequel about the mature Catherine on the Russian throne.
Annette S. (Duluth, GA)
The Winter Palace
The Winter Palace is a wonderful historical fiction novel about an exceptional woman, Catherine the Great of Russia. Catherine was an extraordinary woman in many ways especially when making judgments and in her political courage. This is a very readable book and the reader has a great opportunity to see into the everyday life of Catherine as she grew from a young woman of 14 until she ascended the throne as Empress of All Russias. The book is extensively researched and portrays Catherine a a woman ahead of her time. She was widely popular and fiercely ambitious. A fascinating book about the lavish and byzantine lives along with the intrigues, gossip, rumors and treachery that flourished in the courts of Russia. I look forward to Eva Stachniak's next book, The Empire of the Night, which will continue the story of this remarkable woman.