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The Winter Palace (A novel of the young Catherine the Great) [Kindle Edition]

Eva Stachniak
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)

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Book Description

When Vavara, a young Polish orphan, arrives at the glittering, dangerous court of the Empress Elizabeth in St Petersburg, she is schooled in skills ranging from lock-picking to love-making, learning above all else to stay silent - and listen.

Then Sophie, a vulnerable young princess, arrives from Prussia as a prospective bride for the Empress's heir. Set to spy on her, Vavara soon becomes her friend and confidante, and helps her navigate the illicit liaisons and the treacherous shifting allegiances of the court. But Sophie's destiny is to become the notorious Catherine the Great. Are her ambitions more lofty and far-reaching than anyone suspected, and will she stop at nothing to achieve absolute power?

Product Description


"Riveting... Stachniak has uncovered a treasure trove of rich material... The real core of Stachniak's tale is that [Catherine and Elizabeth] are women... Casts light over recent Russian history too, which is exactly what historical fiction should do" (Jane Smiley Globe and Mail)

"A wonderful novel, riven with intrigue and startling details, the sort to savour on a long winter evening" (Daily Telegraph)

"The kind of big busty read that sends you back to the history books" (The Sunday Times)

"Extraordinarily absorbing... will have you on the edge of your seat" (Daily Mail)

"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)


Advance praise for "The Winter Palace"
"Stachniak's brilliant, bold historical novel of eighteenth-century Russia is a masterful account of one woman's progress toward absolute monarchical rule. . . . This superb biographical epic proves the Tudors don't have a monopoly on marital scandal, royal intrigue, or feminine triumph."--"Booklist" (starred review)
"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"
""The Winter Palace" is an intensely written, intensely felt saga of the early years that shaped the eighteenth century's famou

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1264 KB
  • Print Length: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Transworld Digital (19 Jan. 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0552777986
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552777988
  • ASIN: B005I4D9W4
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #80,243 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Winter Palace 28 Nov. 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is the story of the early years of Catherine the Great, seen through the eyes of a young, Polish girl called Barbara (Varvara in Russian). Varvara is the daughter of a bookbinder, who moves to Russia and restores a precious volume for Elizabeth, the youngest daughter of Peter the Great. When Varvara's parents die, she becomes a 'ward of the Crown'. At first, this means that Varvara is set to work in the Imperial Wardrobe, where she is cold, abused, hungry and lonely. Wandering the palace at night she meets Count Bestuzhev, the Chancellor of Russia and he teaches her to become a spy.

Varvara becomes very involved in Palace and Court life - she meets the Empress Elizabeth and reports to both her and the Chancellor. Elizabeth has vowed to rule alone, planning to make her sister's orphaned son the Crown Prince. She arranges his marriage with Princess Sophie, who becomes Catherine. We follow Catherine's arrival at Court at the tender age of fourteen, a German Princess who becomes the Grand Duchess Catherine Alexeyevna. There are many plots, affairs, marriages, sadness and problems ahead for both Catherine and Varvara. All the way through the novel, Varvara is the eyes and ears that inform on the 'game'; plotting and planning amongst the court factions as Catherine struggles to find a place in the shifting loyalties of the Palace. Meanwhile, there is the dominating figure of the Empress Elizabeth, ruling all their lives as Varvara has to decide where her loyalties lie as the game turns dangerous.

This is a wonderful read - Varvara is a very sympathetic character and you cannot wait to find what will happen next. The author is currently working on a second novel about Catherine the Great and I will certainly be keen to read that. Excellent and highly recommended.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as I'd hoped 8 Jan. 2012
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I was so looking forward to reading this book. I love historical fiction novels set in Russia and this one sounded wonderful (and has such a beautiful cover too). It would be the perfect book to lose myself in over the Christmas holidays, I thought. Well, unfortunately it wasn't. Or not for me, anyway - the majority of people who have reviewed this book seem to have loved it, which makes me feel even more disappointed that I didn't.

The Winter Palace is described as 'a novel of Catherine the Great', which is slightly misleading as Catherine is not the main character and the book only covers her early years. Beginning with her arrival at court as the Princess Sophie of Anhalt-Zerbst, a prospective bride for the Empress Elizabeth's heir, Grand Duke Peter, Catherine's rise to power is described by her friend, Varvara Nikolayevna. Varvara is a young Polish girl, the daughter of a bookbinder, who is employed as a spy, or 'tongue', at the court of Empress Elizabeth. The Winter Palace is really Varvara's story rather than Catherine's.

This is a period of Russian history I knew almost nothing about, so I can't comment on how accurate any of the novel is. I found some of it confusing at first, due to my unfamiliarity with the people and events of the era, though there is a useful character list at the back of the book to help with this. It's always good to finish a historical fiction novel feeling that you were at least able to learn something about the period and by the time I reached the end of this book I did feel that I had a better knowledge of the subject.

The setting of the book - the Russian Imperial court - was as fascinating as I'd expected it to be.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review from The Word Fiend 24 May 2012
By Shelagh
The Winter Palace is my kind of historical fiction - there's intrigue, danger and a world that has been brought to life so beautifully that I could immerse myself in the pages while the story unfolded around me. Wonderful.

The cover for The Winter Palace is what originally made me notice the book in my local bookshop. The crisp blues and whites drew me in and I was struck by the contrast between the cold desolation of the winter sky and the opulence of the palace. But it was the dark-haired girl making her way to the palace that really caught my eye. There are no lights in the windows to welcome her and she is so achingly isolated that I wanted to know her story. And what a story it is!

Eva Stachniak's passion for Catherine the Great and eighteenth-century Russia are both wonderfully evident in her writing. She transported me into the halls of the Winter Palace and stood next to me whispering its secrets while I watched in fascination. All historical fiction should be well-researched, but it takes a great talent to translate that level of detail into a story that lives and breathes. There is a fine line between flooding the reader with too much information and giving them just what they need for the world to come to life for them. Stachniak walks confidently on the correct side of that line and never once does she falter. The Winter Palace is a rich reading experience because of it.

The Winter Palace is told from Varvara's point-of-view. She is a strong character and having her narrate allows the reader to become part of the story itself. Varvara's poor upbringing and introduction to the Russian court are stark and effective tools used to highlight the obvious and marked differences between the different tiers of society in eighteenth-century Russia.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Found it slow and didn't seem to get anywhere. Not exactly gripping.
Published 10 days ago by Annabel Birrell
4.0 out of 5 stars After reading a truly terrible young adult account of Sophie
This review was written for 'The Review Diaries'.
You can read the full review here: Read more
Published 4 months ago by Rosy @ The Review Diaries
1.0 out of 5 stars Didn't finish
Not so great; I was unable to finish the book.
Published 4 months ago by EMC
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
an amazing read
Published 4 months ago by natalie
1.0 out of 5 stars Caution
Advise to try before you buy - I could only get about a third through although I am very interested in the subject.
Published 5 months ago by maurie
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A beautifully written book. Well worth the read!
Published 5 months ago by Martin Wiggs
4.0 out of 5 stars Story about two women who tried and succeeded to get to the very top
"The Winter Palace" by Eva Stachniak tells the story about Catherine the Great's rise to power seen through the eyes of a servant at the court. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Denis Vukosav
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent!
When Varvara, a young Polish orphan, arrives at the glittering, dangerous court of the Empress Elizabeth in St Petersburg, she is schooled in skills ranging from lock-picking to... Read more
Published 18 months ago by ereini0n
4.0 out of 5 stars Good stuff
I have not read any of Eva Stachniak before but I will try some more. The book was not quite what I expected but I still enjoyed it.
Published 18 months ago by Deb Mabbutt
5.0 out of 5 stars WONDERFUL BOOK
Thoroughly enjoyed this book. After visiting St. Petersburg it helped bring the book and the city to life. Good read
Published 20 months ago by Cynthia
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