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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
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
on January 25, 2012
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
on February 16, 2012
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 21, 2012
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 3, 2012
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 17, 2012
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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on February 1, 2013
Having had the opportunity to interview Eva Stachniak author of the Winter Palace I can reliably report on a few items. First the details in this extraordinary book around china, furniture, clothes are all scrupulously researched and the result gives us a feel for what the daily life of the aristocracy in Imperial Russia was truly all about. If you are a history buff, these details make the writing shine.
The innovative approach Stachniak takes in inventing a spy, Varvara who is the novel's protagonist, through which to view all the details as well as to supply a human, very human face to the events which unfold again strikes the reader as more than clever.
The writing itself unwinds richly, sentences crafted with care and information woven through the overview of a human and emotional story...an excellent read!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 27, 2014
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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on November 28, 2013
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 rather what kind of ruler would she become. The rich account of her early days at the Russian court explain it more than enough.
My only regret is that the writing style resembles very much Eva's earlier work. I read this book right after the one on the Sophie Potocki and expected something very different. So at the beginning it was not that engaging as I was hoping for. But overall great read!
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The Winter Palace, by Eva Stachniak is an absorbing, well-written read, spare on embellishment, indicating an author sure of her craft and subject.

The story chronicles the rise of Catherine the Great of Russia through a subsidiary character, that of a young woman adopted into the intrigues and espionage of the Russian court. Throughout the narrative Stachniak, an Amazon Canada First Novel Award Winner in 2000, weaves an intimate knowledge of environment and impeccably researched historical detail.

This is an excellent read.
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