Review: The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam (January 10, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 0553808125
  • Source: Publisher

Varvara (Russian for Barbara) is the daughter of a book binder.  When her mother and father pass away within a year of one another, Varvara is taken under the employ of the Empress Elizabeth and finds a home in her court.  With Count Bestuzhev as her mentor, Varvara becomes an all-seeing eye to all the things that take place before her.  She’s waiting for a better opportunity, something to give her the life she’s long desired.

When a young princess Sophie arrives from Zerbst, Varvara has new hope.  Sophie is destined to marry the Empress’ nephew & eventually become Catherine the Great.  Sophie needs an insider, someone to be her confidante, protecting her against those who would like to see her fail. With Varvara by her side, Sophie/Catherine becomes a legend, surviving trials, tribulations, and the coup that allows her to rise and assume the throne of all of Russia.

The Winter Palace is a beautifully written, dramatic glimpse inside the world of Catherine the Great. With the intensity of a suspense novel, readers get a unique view of Catherine’s youth, from a young, shy girl to an incredibly strong leader.  Stachniak’s writing is so detailed, the reader will feel as though they are walking the halls of the palace themselves, a witness to all the (often cruel) actions. Most importantly, this isn’t merely a novel about Catherine the Great, but one about the confidant who was by her side as she rose to power.  Varvara was a truly impressive character. Despite having a difficult start, she evolved into a truly powerful woman.

To some, the pacing may be slow.  Personally, I thought it was perfect, allowing the growth of these two great women to be revealed slowly, rather than rushed. Fans of history, particularly Russian, will enjoy this fine novel. Highly recommended.



8 Comments to "Review: The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak"

  1. Erika Robuck's Gravatar Erika Robuck
    Twitter: ErikaRobuck
    January 11, 2012 - 8:25 AM | Permalink

    This sounds like it’s right up my alley. Great review!

  2. Emma's Gravatar Emma
    Twitter: wordsandpeace
    January 11, 2012 - 9:23 AM | Permalink

    Thanks for your review. I also enjoyed this book. see my own review:
    currently listening to another great historical fiction writer: Michelle Moran. I discovered her through madame Tussaud last year, and listening now Cleopatra’s daughter, but I’m sure you’ve read all of her books

  3. January 11, 2012 - 10:36 AM | Permalink

    I love reading Russian history. It is so intriguing! This sounds like something I might like. Great review!

  4. Karen White's Gravatar Karen White
    Twitter: karenwhitereads
    January 11, 2012 - 11:46 AM | Permalink

    I haven’t read any Russian historical fiction in a while, but the characters in this are tempting!

  5. January 11, 2012 - 10:13 PM | Permalink

    I haven’t read any Russian history since reading The Bronze Horseman trilogy which I loved. This is going on my wishlist. Thanks for lovely review :)

  6. January 13, 2012 - 11:12 AM | Permalink

    Thank you Jenn for hosting me on my blog tour.
    What a great stop…with so many warm and encouraging comments. I hope you all enjoy “The Winter Palace.”
    Warm wishes from cold and snowy Toronto

  7. bermudaonion (Kathy)'s Gravatar bermudaonion (Kathy)
    Twitter: bermudaonion
    January 13, 2012 - 9:12 PM | Permalink

    Catherine the Great seems to be popular right now. I have a feeling this would be slow and confusing for me.

  8. Beth F's Gravatar Beth F
    Twitter: BethFishReads
    January 16, 2012 - 8:22 AM | Permalink

    I really enjoyed this novel and thought it a great companion for the Massie biography.

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