The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak
A Novel of Catherine the Great

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...what the author...seems to have a knack for is telling parts of the story that aren’t that interesting...there should be a sense of urgency...and it frequently disappears, caught up in redecorating the Winter Palace...and homemade boot polish.
-National Post arts

Synopsis

From award-winning author Eva Stachniak comes this passionate novel that 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 loftier, more dangerous ambitions. 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.
 
“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)
 

About Eva Stachniak

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Eva Stachniak was born in Wroclaw, Poland. She moved to Canada in 1981 and has worked for Radio Canada International and Sheridan College, where she taught English and humanities. Her first short story, "Marble Heroes," was published by The Antigonish Review in 1994, and her debut novel, Necessary Lies, won the Amazon.ca/Books in Canada First Novel Award in 2000. She is also the author of Garden of Venus, which has been translated into seven languages. She lives in Toronto, where she is at work on her next novel about Catherine the Great, which Bantam Books will publish.
 
Published January 10, 2012 by Bantam. 514 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Literature & Fiction. Fiction
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Critic reviews for The Winter Palace
All: 4 | Positive: 2 | Negative: 2

Globe and Mail

Good
Reviewed by Jane Smiley on Jan 20 2012

Stachniak’s vision casts light over recent Russian history too, which is exactly what a piece of historical fiction should do.

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National Post arts

Below average
Reviewed by Sandra Kasturi on Jan 27 2012

...what the author...seems to have a knack for is telling parts of the story that aren’t that interesting...there should be a sense of urgency...and it frequently disappears, caught up in redecorating the Winter Palace...and homemade boot polish.

Read Full Review of The Winter Palace: A Novel of... | See more reviews from National Post arts

Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Pam Norfolk on Feb 16 2012

She fills the pages with the dramas of human relationships, the paranoia of subterfuge and the perils of absolute power.

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National Post arts

Below average
Reviewed by Sandra Kasturi on Jan 27 2012

While The Winter Palace is indeed as gorgeous, opulent and lush as its titular location, in the aggregate it doesn’t quite live up to its lovely façade: We’ve seen these ideas before, and we haven’t really learned anything we didn’t already know...

Read Full Review of The Winter Palace: A Novel of... | See more reviews from National Post arts

Reader Rating for The Winter Palace
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