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The Winter Palace [Deckle Edge] [Paperback]

Eva Stachniak
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jan. 3 2012
Behind every great ruler lies a betrayal. Eva Stachniak's novel sweeps readers into the passionate, intimate, and treacherous world of Catherine the Great, revealing Russia's greatest matriarch from her earliest days in court, where the most valuable currency was the secrets of nobility and the most dangerous weapon to wield was ambition.
 
Two young women, caught in the landscape of shifting allegiances, navigate the treacherous waters of palace intrigue. Barbara is a servant who will become one of Russia's most cunning royal spies. Sophia is a pretty, naive German duchess who will become Catherine the Great. For readers of superb historical fiction, Eva Stachniak captures in glorious detail the opulence of royalty and the perilous loyalties of the Russian court.

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Review

The Winter Palace is indeed as gorgeous, opulent and lush as its titular location.”
National Post
 
“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 a deft entertainment.”
 —The Washington Post
 
“[B]rilliant, bold . . . This superb biographical epic proves the Tudors don’t have a monopoly on marital scandal, royal intrigue, or feminine triumph.”
Booklist

“Eva Stachniak's new novel should establish her as a pre-eminent writer of historical fiction. ... The Winter Palace is seamless in its depiction of a place and time…. what Stachniak has given us is not history, but a dramatic recreation of what the witnesses to history actually manage to see and do.”
—Quill & Quire

“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.”
Booklist

“Stachniak sets the scene extravagantly with details of sumptuous meals, elaborate wardrobes, and cunning palace politics. Longtime readers of English and French historical novels will delight in this relatively unsung dynasty and the familiar hallmarks of courtly intrigue.”
Library Journal
 
“In The Winter Palace, Stachniak creates a story filled with political intrigue, secret affairs and dread diseases. . . . Stachniak has faithfully reproduced the historical story of Catherine.”
Vancouver Sun

“Rich in detail, filled with vivid characters, recounted in seamless prose, The Winter Palace follows the suspenseful journey of two forceful young women--Varvara, the ‘tongue’ whose task it is to spy on a penniless young princess from Germany brought to court to provide a heir for Mother Russia, and Catherine, groomed to become the future wife of the next Czar, the socially clumsy and dull Peter. The Winter Palace is as luminescent as a Fabergé egg, as salty as caviar and as heady as vodka. Eva Stachniak has re-created an absolutely believable world of the Russian Imperial Court and the character of the young Catherine, the ambitious, ill-used, manipulated girl who became one of the greatest female monarchs the world has ever seen. This book will grab you by the throat on page one and not let you go until the last page.  The characters will stay with you forever.”
—Roberta Rich, author of The Midwife of Venice

 “The Winter Palace evokes the dark, glittering world of the Russian court. I loved my reader’s place behind the eyes of the servant girl Varvara, engaged in her perilous role as confidante to the young Catherine the Great. Rich with fascinating details of St. Petersburg, Eva Stachniak’s novel is an illuminating lesson and a delicious read.”
—Beth Powning, author of The Sea Captain’s Wife
 
“Spies and lovers lurk everywhere, while brilliantly bedecked royals indulge their every whim.”
Publishers Weekly
 
“This novel is literary sable to sink into on a cold winter's night: luxurious and elegant, gilded with details, yet piercing in its depiction of the flamboyant decadence of the Russian court, and the tumultuous rise to power of Catherine the Great, as seen through the eyes of a scheming lady in waiting and spy. Once you enter the glorious, dangerous world of The Winter Palace, you will never want to leave.”
—C.W. Gortner, author of The Confessions of Catherine de Medici
 
“A wonderful tale of the Imperial Russia court in all its glittering glory.  Eva Stachniak vividly brings to life the early years of the meek young bride who would become the terrifying fascinating Catherine the Great.” 
—Kate Williams, author of England’s Mistress and Becoming Queen
 
“Fantastic, bold, colourful, assured and wonderful writing - and what a story! An outstanding book, magical, beautiful with writing as crisp and fine and breathtaking as a Russian winter.” 
 —Manda Scott, author of the Boudica trilogy
 
“Covering the twenty years that turned Catherine the Great from a young bride on approval to the legendary Empress of Russia, Eva Stachniak’s novel gives a magical insight into the hopes and fears that haunted the corridors of the St. Petersburg palace.  It brings alive the very tastes and textures of the mid-eighteenth century.”
—Sarah Gristwood, author of The Girl in the Mirror
 
“Awash in period details and as gripping and suspenseful as any thriller, The Winter Palace gives us a unique look at the making of a queen.  Eva Stachniak allows us to peep through keyholes and overhear whispers as we navigate the intrigues of Imperialist  Russia along with Sophie, the princess who became Catherine the Great.  I loved this book, and this glimpse into a world of silk and shadows, grandeur and gossip.”
—Melanie Benjamin, author of The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb
 
“Eva Stachniak has given readers a thrilling glimpse into the scandals and secrets at the heart of the Russian Imperial court. With deft prose and exquisite detail, Stachniak has resurrected one of the most compelling ages in history.  Turn off the phones and lock the doors—you will not put it down.”
—Deanna Raybourn, New York Times bestselling author of Silent in the Grave
 
"Utterly enchanting from the first page. Eva Stachniak brings to life the sensual feast that was Catherine the Great's Russia in this beautifully written, tightly plotted novel."
—Tasha Alexander, author of And Only to Deceive
 
“This is 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, author of The Golden Tulip
 
The Winter Palace is an intensely written, intensely felt saga of the early years that shaped the 18th century's famous czarina, Catherine the Great. Her survival in the treachery of the Russian court was an amazing feat, and Eva Stachniak captures the fluidity and steeliness that propelled Catherine from a lowly German duchess to one of the towering figures of the century.”
—Karleen Koen, New York Times bestselling author of Through a Glass Darkly
 

About the Author

EVA STACHNIAK was born in Wroclaw, Poland. She came 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.com/Books in Canada First Novel Award in 2000. Stachniak is also the author of Garden of Venus. She lives in Toronto.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Delightful escapism Jan. 23 2012
Format:Paperback
This was one well reviewed book that did not disappoint. A rich tapestry of a story. As some books are meant for the beach, this one is meant for a frosty winter read in a deep chair and footstool surrounded by afghans and cocoa and a long haired cat. An orphan gets taken into service in the court of Peter the Great s daughter who must live by her wits through many machinations and treacheries. Vividly portrayed, richly detailed, full of fascinating characters and historical information; all very well and intelligently written. I am always happy when the grammar stands up these days, which it does in this book. Not overly romantic for those of us who avoid sentimentality, but appealing, I suspect, to those who seek it as well.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Slow Moving but Interesting Jan. 25 2012
By Betty K
Format:Paperback
When her mother expires of cholera and her father, a Polish bookbinder in the Russian court, dies soon after of a broken heart, Barbara Nikolayevna or Varvara in Russian is left an orphan at the mercy of Empress Elizabeth. At first, the woman in charge of female servants treats Varvara miserably, but soon she takes the eye of Alexi Bestuzhev-Rhumin, the Chancellor of Russia.

For a few sexual favours, he trains her in the art of spying and helps her to gain the confidence of the empress. Eventually she is given a prominent position in the palace, high enough to begin a friendship with the young Princess Sophie of Anhalt-Zerbst who becomes Catherine the Great. It is through the eyes and point-of-view of Varvara that the book is written.

I really wanted to like this book a lot. The blood of Mother Russia runs through the veins of my own husband, and I am always fascinated by the history of that country, sad as it is. But I found the plot moved forward very slowly, and it took me much longer than usual to read the novel. It's definitely not a page-turner; rather a book to take in small doses.

That's not to say it isn't well done. The writing is literary and beautiful in style--often quite poetic--but it is a dirge rather than a lyrical piece. It is often depressing. As I read, I could almost hear the sound of The Volga Boatmen in the background. It is that natural Russian melancholy that prevails throughout the story.

Still, I would recommend it so any lover of historical fiction. There is lots to learn from the book. Although rather improbable, it is very informative at times.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great read Feb. 16 2012
By mommyx2
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this book from start to finish. Great way to tell the story of how Catherine the Great came to rule Russia.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By Janet
Format:Paperback
We live in the day and age of Catherine and St Petersburg and see through the eyes of the narrator - a key character in the book.
She keeps us enthralled with the lives of those around her - a great read for lovers of history and good character representation.
The author brings the characters to life for us on the pages of this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful book! March 21 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The Winter Palace
Since I bought my Kindle at Amazon, I have nothing but good things to say about Amazon and their services. It is always prompt and the description of the books offered are also very informative in directing my choice in buying my books. The Winter Palace is a very good book for those,like me who loves history with a bit of story in it, and once I started reading the novel, I could not put it down! So, for me, it was a great experience! I enjoyed the book immensely, fictional history being my favourite, and I wasn't disappointed with "The Winter Palace". The author has the ability to make us part of the story, we want to know more and we get it. Just loved this book and I would greatly recommend it! The company Amazon from whom I bought this book is to be commended for such good service.

Louise D. Hebert

Being French Canadian, my English might need some editing,please feel free to do so!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining but not to historical... Jan. 27 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Overall, a pleasant read, but I was hoping to learn more about Catherine the Great and Russian History. Unfortunately, the story focusses mainly on Palace intrigues… It is entertaining and well written; the descriptions are vivid, but history buffs will be disappointed...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Royal Trip Back In Time April 17 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I just finished reading this book, and enjoyed it very, very much. It gives a lot of accurate period detail of life and royalty in Russia in the mid 1700's. The rise and early reign of Catherine The Great is richly detailed, covering all the Court intrigues and manipulations that lead up to the coup that brought her to the throne. The book is told from the perspective of a female commonor who came into royal service and was used as an internal spy in the palace. It might appeal more to women, especially those interested in royalty or Russian history. Although it is a fictional account, it is based on accurate historial events.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not that great April 1 2012
Format:Paperback
I read this book from start to finish and I kept waiting for it to get interesting. Probably one of the most mediocre books that I have read for a long time.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Not finished yet. It is true to history, ...
Not finished yet. It is true to history, graphic and interesting.
Published 1 month ago by beulah garrisson
5.0 out of 5 stars This was a great book!
It was a real page turner, but nuanced and complex. It also painted a very vivid picture of the time
Published 3 months ago by Elizabeth Wheelahan
4.0 out of 5 stars Good light read...
The story was enjoyable enough, even though it did not ring "true" with me. No maid would have that much to do with royalty. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Gramsie
5.0 out of 5 stars The Winter Palace
My ancestor Mark Dixon married a woman who was employed as a book binder to a Tzar of Russia .Super Book
Published 5 months ago by Josephine M Laxton
5.0 out of 5 stars Just finished this book
Everything I enjoy in a novel history suspense and a great ending. Definiely a good read had a hard time putting it down yet didn't want it to end.
Published 6 months ago by Me
4.0 out of 5 stars Great read
Great historical novel well nested in the realities of the days. It reads great, one does not want to stop even knowing more or less what would happen to Katherine the Great or... Read more
Published 9 months ago by malgosia
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent read
The Winter Palace, by Eva Stachniak is an absorbing, well-written read, spare on embellishment, indicating an author sure of her craft and subject. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Lorina Stephens
5.0 out of 5 stars What a great read.
I enjoy history, and this author did a great job, another Book Club read, I'm sure everyone will enjoy this one.
Published 16 months ago by MaryAnne Luchak
4.0 out of 5 stars Stachniak: a Rare Treasure
Having had the opportunity to interview Eva Stachniak author of the Winter Palace I can reliably report on a few items. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Charlene D. Jones
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful book
I enjoyed this book so much I ordered copies for two of my daughters. Such a great peek into the life of the Royal family in Russia, a page turner , full of unforgettable... Read more
Published 20 months ago by colleen thompson
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