BN.com Gift Guide

The Pearl: A True Tale of Forbidden Love in Catherine the Great's Russia

Paperback (Print)
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $4.15
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 83%)
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (15) from $4.15   
  • New (5) from $21.18   
  • Used (10) from $4.15   

Overview

The most complete and accurate account ever written of the illicit love affair between Count Nicholas Sheremetev (1751-1809), Russia's richest aristocrat, and Praskovia Kovalyova (1768-1803), his serf and the greatest opera diva of her time.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Selwa Roosevelt
If truth is indeed stranger than fiction, then there can be no better example of that maxim than The Pearl. This fascinating, well-researched account by Douglas Smith is more than a love story about the singing serf who became the greatest diva in Russia and married her master—Russia's wealthiest noble, Count Nicholas Sheremetev. It's also a vivid account of the privileged lives and baroque splendor of the Russian aristocracy in the 18th century—the golden age of the Russian nobility—and the complex interaction between the wealthy few and their countless serfs, who were the basis of that wealth.
—The Washington Post
Library Journal

Praskovia Kovalyova (1768-1803), called "the Pearl," was trained from a young age to perform in serf theater (troupes of performers gathered and maintained by elite Russian rural estates from the 18th century until serfs were emancipated in 1861). She eventually became one of Russia's greatest opera singers, with accolades from Catherine the Great, but she may be better known for her illicit marriage to one of Russia's most prominent noblemen, her master, Nicholas Sheremetev. Smith (resident scholar, Univ. of Washington; Love & Conquest: Personal Correspondence of Catherine the Great and Prince Grigory Potemkin) re-creates their lives as master and servant and husband and wife in this fantastic, scandalous, and true tale from a deeply intolerant time. Praskovia, who died in childbed, became a legend among serfs, immortalized in song and poetry. As with most actresses of the time, she did not leave behind memoirs. As the author states in the prelude, "Everything we know about Praskovia comes from the words of others." Luckily for the reader, Smith does a convincing job of using others' words, from various archival documents, to produce a well-written and compelling book. Highly recommended for large public and academic libraries.
—Susanne Markgren

Washington Post Book World

"This fascinating, well-researched account by Douglas Smith is more than a love story. . . . It''s also a vivid account of the . . . complex interaction between the wealthy few and their countless serfs."—Selwa Roosevelt, Washington Post Book World

— Selwa Roosevelt

Seattle Times

"A love story between the richest nobleman in Imperial Russia and a young serf with a spellbinding operatic voice—the scribbler of a bodice-ripper romance could not ask for better stuff. Now, imagine the same story undertaken with meticulous historical research of thousands of archival documents."—Kimberly Marlowe Hartnett, Seattle Times

— Kimberly Marlowe Hartnett

Christian Science Monitor

"The irresistible story of the Russian serf Praskovia Kovalyova who was honored by Catherine the Great and loved by one of the richest men in the world. Nicholas Sheremetev brought her to the stage, to his bed, and then secretly wed her."—Bob Blaisdell, Christian Science Monitor

— Bob Blaisdell

Moscow Times

"An engaging narrative. . . . Scrupulous research underlies this fascinating picture of life at Russia''s top social echelon."—George Loomis, Moscow Times

— George Loomis

Books & Culture

"A fascinating and moving story."—Betty Smart Carter, Books & Culture

— Betty Smart Carter

The Cultural Tourist

"This is an odd but inspiring story. It is wonderful that Smith uncovered it and tells it so movingly."—Howard Kissel, The Cultural Tourist (New York Daily News blog)

— Howard Kissel

Willard Sunderland
"Smith's book is an unusual gem—a work that gives us not only an absorbing view of the intimate world of a forbidden romance but also a first-rate historical tour of the lost landscapes of Russian aristocratic society, opera, and theater in its golden age."—Willard Sunderland, University of Cincinnati
Hilde Hoogenboom
“Douglas Smith has produced the definitive account, and the first in English, of the extraordinary relationship between Count Nicholas Sheremetev, Russia’s wealthiest noble ever, and his wife, a former serf actress known as 'The Pearl'.”—Hilde Hoogenboom, University of Albany
Elise Wirtschafter
"A moving, romantic, and tragic historical tale."—Elise Wirtschafter, California State Polytechnic University
Amanda Foreman
"The Pearl is a bright, sparkling jewel of a book; a masterpiece that deserves as wide an audience as possible. Russia's greatest love story has never been properly told, until now."—Amanda Foreman, author of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire
Andrea Lee
"The Pearl is a book I've always wanted to see written—a portrait of one of the greatest and least known love stories in European history. Douglas Smith, a brilliant historian who writes like a novelist, has brought it to life in a rare blend of meticulous research and gripping emotional narrative that opens to the reader both the recondite world of Russian serf theater, and an extraordinary human drama. Mesmerizing."—Andrea Lee, author of Russian Journal and Interesting Women
Robert K. Massie
“This is a dazzling, multi-faceted jewel of a book. Based on an extraordinary effort of meticulous research, Douglas Smith has discovered and told the true story of a young, eighteenth-century serf woman whose superb voice made her the star of the private opera theater of her owner, the wealthiest nobleman in Catherine the Great’s Russia. The high drama of their passionate love is set against a background of the greatest possible contrast: the grim realities of serfdom versus the staggering opulence of the highest Russian aristocracy. It is a remarkable work of dual biography; it is also an unforgettable story.”—Robert K. Massie, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Nicholas and Alexandra and Peter the Great
Washington Post Book World - Selwa Roosevelt
"This fascinating, well-researched account by Douglas Smith is more than a love story. . . . It's also a vivid account of the . . . complex interaction between the wealthy few and their countless serfs."—Selwa Roosevelt, Washington Post Book World
Seattle Times - Kimberly Marlowe Hartnett
"A love story between the richest nobleman in Imperial Russia and a young serf with a spellbinding operatic voice—the scribbler of a bodice-ripper romance could not ask for better stuff. Now, imagine the same story undertaken with meticulous historical research of thousands of archival documents."—Kimberly Marlowe Hartnett, Seattle Times
Christian Science Monitor - Bob Blaisdell
"The irresistible story of the Russian serf Praskovia Kovalyova who was honored by Catherine the Great and loved by one of the richest men in the world. Nicholas Sheremetev brought her to the stage, to his bed, and then secretly wed her."—Bob Blaisdell, Christian Science Monitor
Moscow Times - George Loomis
"An engaging narrative. . . . Scrupulous research underlies this fascinating picture of life at Russia's top social echelon."—George Loomis, Moscow Times
Books & Culture - Betty Smart Carter
"A fascinating and moving story."—Betty Smart Carter, Books & Culture
The Cultural Tourist - Howard Kissel
"This is an odd but inspiring story. It is wonderful that Smith uncovered it and tells it so movingly."—Howard Kissel, The Cultural Tourist (New York Daily News blog)
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300158588
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 8/25/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 1,401,367
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Douglas Smith is a resident scholar at the University of Washington and the author of the prize-winning books Working the Rough Stone: Freemasonry and Society in Eighteenth-Century Russia and Love and Conquest: Personal Correspondence of Catherine the Great and Prince Grigory Potemkin.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Note on Style

Family Trees

I Kuskovo

1 An Aristocratic Boyhood 13

2 The Blacksmith's Daughter 21

3 Grand Tour 29

4 The Big House 37

5 First Meeting 42

6 Praskovia's Debut 48

7 Early Success 53

8 Serf Diva, Serf Mistress 61

9 Entertaining Catherine 75

10 The Sheremetevs and Their Serfs 85

11 The Old Count's Death 91

Interlude: Serf Theater 97

II Ostankino

12 "I intend to build ..." 113

13 Farewell to Kuskovo 121

14 Ostankino's Premier 130

15 Training the Troupe 138

16 Life in the Troupe 146

17 To St. Petersburg 154

18 Tsar Paul 160

Interlude: Serf Actress Stones 171

III The Fountain House

19 Freedom 181

20 The Curtain Falls 188

21 The Specter of Death 195

22 Coronation 200

23 Wedding 206

24 Newlyweds 217

25 Dmitry's Birth 225

26 Secrets Revealed 232

27 Death 239

28 Scandal 247

29 Saint Praskovia 252

30 Putrid Bones 261

31 Fatherly Advice 266

32 Separate Fates 271

Coda 281

Notes 285

Bibliography 301

Index 321

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)