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Saturday, September 8, 2012

"The Winter Palace" by Eva Stachniak~Beautiful Story

SUMMARY 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.

Audio CD:  Books on Tape
Discs:  15
Price:  $65
Purchase:  Amazon  http://www.amazon.com/Winter-Palace-Lib-Eva-Stachniak/dp/030796681X/ref=tmm_abk_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1347123246&sr=1-1


Author's Biography:

Eva Stachniak was born in Poland, studied at Magill University in Montreal, Canada, and now lives in Toronto.  She is the author of several books.  You may find more about her here:  http://evastachniak.com

This is a 6 minute video interview with Eva:

Something I rarely do is listen to books on tape, but on my long drive to Louisiana this past month, I took along "The White Palace" as a companion "read."  I'm so happy I did.  This was the consummate audio tape for a long trip.  Rich in detail and intrigue, this book was just the thing I needed to keep my mind occupied as the miles melted away.

I thoroughly enjoyed the dialog of Barbara the young girl who began as a seamstress's apprentice in the royal Russian court, and was lifted to the position of spy and companion to the young heir of the throne, Peter III, and then his poor young wife, Catherine.  The story of how she was trained and operated as a spy was fascinating.  And the story of her relationships to Peter and then his abused and "pushed aside" wife, was compelling and exciting. 

I loved the characterizations.  Barbara became the main link between Elizabeth the Empress of Russia and the soon to become Catherine the Great as she developed from a weak and beaten down young girl to the eventual Empress herself.  It was Barbara who walked the thin wire between the two women, and became a loyal friend to both as best she could.  This was a part of the book I found most evocative. 

The sexual exploits of both women were significant to their reigns, and were kept thinly veiled from each other by Barbara. A long and dangerous connection between the two women was kept in the balance by the clever spying and relaying of messages by Barbara. Peter was kept in check by an overbearing Empress Elizabeth, and then by an eventual powerful Catherine who had gained strength partly through Barbara's help and connections over the years.  This was a smart author's ploy making the story easy for a listener and reader to understand as the court intrigue progressed.

I felt what could have been a heavy book of Russian history was conveyed in a lively and absorbing story of spy-craft and sexual intrigue.  Eva Stachniak certainly appealed to my sense of adventure and love of historical fiction.  The descriptive quality of this audio tape was wonderful, as well.  Clothing and architecture came as alive as the characters.

Highly recommended audio experience for those who enjoy listening to a book, although this was quite a long one at 15 tapes!  I must take off a star for the length...

4 stars           Deborah/TheBookishDame




Okay, you've sold me. I'm adding this to my TBR list! Sounds fantastic. I love historical fic and am getting into Russian history.


I never tried a book this way. But if you loved it, then I know I will because your judgement is spot on!

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