A reimagining of the early years of Catherine the Great traces the story of a naive German duchess as observed by young Barbara, a servant who watches her mistress's elevation and rises to become one of Russia's most clever royal spies. - (Baker & Taylor)
A reimagining of the early years of Catherine the Great traces the story of a naive German duchess as observed by young Barbara, a servant who watches her mistress's elevation and rises to one of Russia's most clever royal spies. By the author of Necessary Lies. - (Baker & Taylor)
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
The Wall Street Journal • The Washington Post
From award-winning author Eva Stachniak comes this passionate novel that illuminates, as only fiction can, the early life of one of history’s boldest women. The Winter Palace tells the epic story of Catherine the Great’s improbable rise to power—as seen through the ever-watchful eyes of an all-but-invisible servant close to the throne.
Her name is Barbara—in Russian, Varvara. Nimble-witted and attentive, she’s allowed into the employ of the Empress Elizabeth, amid the glitter and cruelty of the world’s most eminent court. Under the tutelage of Count Bestuzhev, Chancellor and spymaster, Varvara will be educated in skills from lock picking to lovemaking, learning above all else to listen—and to wait for opportunity. That opportunity arrives in a slender young princess from Zerbst named Sophie, a playful teenager destined to become the indomitable Catherine the Great. Sophie’s destiny at court is to marry the Empress’s nephew, but she has other, loftier, more dangerous ambitions, and she proves to be more guileful than she first appears.
What Sophie needs is an insider at court, a loyal pair of eyes and ears who knows the traps, the conspiracies, and the treacheries that surround her. Varvara will become Sophie’s confidante—and together the two young women will rise to the pinnacle of absolute power.
With dazzling details and intense drama, Eva Stachniak depicts Varvara’s secret alliance with Catherine as the princess grows into a legend—through an enforced marriage, illicit seductions, and, at last, the shocking coup to assume the throne of all of Russia.
Impeccably researched and magnificently written, The Winter Palace is an irresistible peek through the keyhole of one of history’s grandest tales.
Praise for The Winter Palace
“A majestic and splendidly written tale of pride, passion, intrigue, and deceit that is brought alive from the first page to the last.”—Rosalind Laker
“At the same time baroque and intimate, worldly and domestic, wildly strange and soulfully familiar, The Winter Palace offers a flickering glimpse of history through the gauze of deft entertainment.”—The Washington Post
“A thrilling point of view . . . Readers are treated to a firsthand account of the young princess’s slow ascent to the throne, a path deliciously strewn with discarded lovers and sanguine court intrigues.”—Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“[A] brilliant, bold historical novel . . . This superb biographical epic proves the Tudors don’t have a monopoly on marital scandal, royal intrigue, or feminine triumph.”—Booklist (starred review) - (Random House, Inc.)
*Starred Review* Polish-Canadian author Stachniak's brilliant, bold historical novel of eighteenth-century Russia is a masterful account of one woman's progress toward absolute monarchical rule. For Catherine the Great, the path to her eventual coup d'état involves 20 years of subtle strategizing, intelligence gathering, and patience. Born Sophie of Anhalt-Zerbst, this "pale, appealing sliver of a girl" arrives in St. Petersburg in 1743 as a potential bride for Peter, Empress Elizabeth's weak-willed nephew and heir. Through the clear narration of clever, multilingual Varvara, the Polish bookbinder's daughter who becomes her servant, friend, and spy, readers follow Catherine from her early years of barrenness and disfavor through her even more demoralizing years of motherhood. While Elizabeth tolerates and even encourages Catherine's sexual liaisons, she separates her from her children. During the massive rebuilding of the Winter Palace and war with Prussia, which impoverish Elizabeth's subjects, a steelier, more confident Catherine emerges. Varvara, too, gradually awakens to her own inner strength. Stachniak captures dramatic moments with flair, and the Russian imperial court—with its fox-fur blankets, gilded furniture, and carafes of cherry vodka—appears in glorious splendor. This superb biographical epic proves the Tudors don't have a monopoly on marital scandal, royal intrigue, or feminine triumph. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.