The Winter Palace: A Novel of Catherine the Great

( 60 )

Overview

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
The Wall Street Journal • The Washington Post

From award-winning author Eva Stachniak comes this passionate novel that illuminates, as only fiction can, the early life of one of history’s boldest women. The Winter Palace tells the epic story of Catherine the Great’s improbable rise to power—as seen through the ever-watchful eyes of an all-but-invisible servant close ...

See more details below
Available through our Marketplace sellers and in stores.

Pick Up In Store Near You

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (47) from $1.99   
  • New (9) from $2.90   
  • Used (38) from $1.99   
Close
Sort by
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Note: Marketplace items are not eligible for any BN.com coupons and promotions
$2.90
Seller since 2014

Feedback rating:

(1)

Condition:

New — never opened or used in original packaging.

Like New — packaging may have been opened. A "Like New" item is suitable to give as a gift.

Very Good — may have minor signs of wear on packaging but item works perfectly and has no damage.

Good — item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Acceptable — item is in working order but may show signs of wear such as scratches or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Used — An item that has been opened and may show signs of wear. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Refurbished — A used item that has been renewed or updated and verified to be in proper working condition. Not necessarily completed by the original manufacturer.

New
Brand New Condition. Ships the next day

Ships from: Las Cruces, NM

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
$3.28
Seller since 2013

Feedback rating:

(39)

Condition: New
Hardcover New 0553808125 FAST shipping. New Unread Book. (Thank you for shopping from us. Order inquiries handled promptly. )

Ships from: FORT LAUDERDALE, FL

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$4.67
Seller since 2010

Feedback rating:

(684)

Condition: New
Hardcover New 0553808125! ! ! ! BEST PRICES WITH A SERVICE YOU CAN RELY! ! !

Ships from: Philadelphia, PA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$4.67
Seller since 2010

Feedback rating:

(914)

Condition: New
Hardcover New 0553808125 Friendly Return Policy. A+++ Customer Service!

Ships from: Philadelphia, PA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$4.67
Seller since 2011

Feedback rating:

(720)

Condition: New
Hardcover New 0553808125 SERVING OUR CUSTOMERS WITH BEST PRICES. FROM A COMPANY YOU TRUST, HUGE SELECTION. RELIABLE CUSTOMER SERVICE! ! HASSLE FREE RETURN POLICY, SATISFACTION ... GURANTEED**** Read more Show Less

Ships from: Philadelphia, PA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$4.67
Seller since 2013

Feedback rating:

(401)

Condition: New
Hardcover New 0553808125! ! KNOWLEDGE IS POWER! ! ENJOY OUR BEST PRICES! ! ! Ships Fast. All standard orders delivered within 5 to 12 business days.

Ships from: Southampton, PA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$4.67
Seller since 2014

Feedback rating:

(269)

Condition: New
Hardcover New 0553808125 XCITING PRICES JUST FOR YOU. Ships within 24 hours. Best customer service. 100% money back return policy.

Ships from: Bensalem, PA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$6.99
Seller since 2014

Feedback rating:

(1)

Condition: New
Brand New Condition. Ships the next day.

Ships from: Las Cruces, NM

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
$45.00
Seller since 2014

Feedback rating:

(146)

Condition: New
Brand new.

Ships from: acton, MA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Close
Sort by
The Winter Palace: A Novel of Catherine the Great

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK Study
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$11.99
BN.com price

Overview

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
The Wall Street Journal • The Washington Post

From award-winning author Eva Stachniak comes this passionate novel that illuminates, as only fiction can, the early life of one of history’s boldest women. The Winter Palace tells the epic story of Catherine the Great’s improbable rise to power—as seen through the ever-watchful eyes of an all-but-invisible servant close to the throne.

Her name is Barbara—in Russian, Varvara. Nimble-witted and attentive, she’s allowed into the employ of the Empress Elizabeth, amid the glitter and cruelty of the world’s most eminent court. Under the tutelage of Count Bestuzhev, Chancellor and spymaster, Varvara will be educated in skills from lock picking to lovemaking, learning above all else to listen—and to wait for opportunity. That opportunity arrives in a slender young princess from Zerbst named Sophie, a playful teenager destined to become the indomitable Catherine the Great. Sophie’s destiny at court is to marry the Empress’s nephew, but she has other, loftier, more dangerous ambitions, and she proves to be more guileful than she first appears.

What Sophie needs is an insider at court, a loyal pair of eyes and ears who knows the traps, the conspiracies, and the treacheries that surround her. Varvara will become Sophie’s confidante—and together the two young women will rise to the pinnacle of absolute power.

With dazzling details and intense drama, Eva Stachniak depicts Varvara’s secret alliance with Catherine as the princess grows into a legend—through an enforced marriage, illicit seductions, and, at last, the shocking coup to assume the throne of all of Russia.

Impeccably researched and magnificently written, The Winter Palace is an irresistible peek through the keyhole of one of history’s grandest tales.

Praise for The Winter Palace
 
“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
 
“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 deft entertainment.”—The Washington Post
 
“A thrilling point of view . . . Readers are treated to a firsthand account of the young princess’s slow ascent to the throne, a path deliciously strewn with discarded lovers and sanguine court intrigues.”—Minneapolis Star-Tribune
 
“[A] brilliant, bold historical novel . . . This superb biographical epic proves the Tudors don’t have a monopoly on marital scandal, royal intrigue, or feminine triumph.”—Booklist (starred review)

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
As told from the perspective of Varvara, a Polish servant girl in the 18th century Russian court, spies and lovers lurk everywhere, while brilliantly bedecked royals indulge their every whim. When readers first meet Catherine the Great, she is 14-year-old Princess Sophie of Anhalt-Zerbst, brought by her mother to Empress Elizabeth as a potential wife for Elizabeth’s nephew and heir, the future Peter III. Sophie quickly realizes that to achieve her marital ambitions, she must please the empress more than her mother or even Peter, who is more interested in playing soldier than he is in Sophie. On advice from the conniving Chancellor Bestuzhev, Elizabeth engages 16-year-old Varvara, well-versed in languages, espionage, and storytelling, to befriend Sophie and spy on her. Varvara’s loyalties soon shift to Sophie. After she leaves the court to marry a palace guard, Varvara secretly keeps in touch with Sophie, who becomes Grand Duchess Catherine, despised by an increasingly petulant Peter and distrusted by the demanding Elizabeth. Since Stachniak (Necessary Lies) can’t invent anything more bizarre than actual czarist history, she wisely focuses on portraying the liaisons of Russian court life, with Varvara’s story paralleling Catherine’s before taking its own unique turn. A sequel about Catherine’s reign is already in the works. (Jan.)
From the Publisher
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 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
 
“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
 
“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
 
“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
Library Journal
This first novel in a planned trilogy begins at the Russian court of Empress Elizabeth. Searching for a bride for her nephew, grandson of Peter the Great and designated heir to the throne, Elizabeth invites the Prussian Princess Sophie of Anhalt-Zerbs to St. Petersburg. She also enlists Varvara, the novel's narrator and a bookbinder's daughter married to an esteemed member of the palace guard, to befriend and spy on the princess. Trading in secrets while trying to protect her new friend and advance her own position, Varvara follows the loves, disappointments, and successes of Princess Sophie, rebaptized as Catherine, through the last two decades of Elizabeth's rule and the dramatic coup that leads to Catherine's reign as empress. VERDICT Stachniak (Dancing with Kings) 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. [See Prepub Alert, 7/5/11.]—Cathy Lantz, Morton Coll. Lib., Cicero, IL
Library Journal
This story of how wide-eyed German duchess Sophie becomes Catherine the Great, one of Russia's foremost rulers, is narrated by a servant named Barbara (not Varvara?) who doubles as a royal spy. The Polish-born, Canadian-based Stachniak has signed two more books with the publisher, one telling Catherine's story from her own viewpoint. I'd feature pretty much anything titled The Winter Palace; Russian history is so appealing, and unlike some British royalty, Catherine is not overdone.
Kirkus Reviews
Young Catherine the Great, as observed by a palace mole. Varvara, daughter of a Polish bookbinder, is fortunate, after being orphaned at an early age, to be hired to serve Empress Elizabeth of Russia as a seamstress. Bestuzhev, Chancellor of Russia, soon sees the makings of an excellent spy in the comely young woman. He undertakes her training, and soon she's ingratiating herself with the Empress and reporting on every tantrum and foible. Catherine, daughter of impoverished Prussian nobles, is brought to Russia to marry Elizabeth's nephew Peter, the Crown Prince. Varvara and Catherine soon bond, as Catherine's meddling mother angers the Empress and almost scuttles the betrothal. Once married to Peter, Catherine's position at court remains precarious--her husband seems more interested in playing soldier than fathering the new heir Elizabeth longs for. Varvara's loyalty to Catherine antagonizes Bestuzhev, who despises Germans in general and Catherine in particular. Bestuzhev effectively banishes Varvara, arranging her marriage to Egor, an officer of the Palace Guard. Meanwhile Catherine and Peter are consigned to a remote castle in hopes that, deprived of distractions, they will mate. Catherine does produce a son, Paul, in all likelihood fathered by her lover, Saltykov. Elizabeth immediately appropriates Paul, who as he grows becomes a stranger to his mother. Catherine takes another lover, and Varvara is recalled to court by Bestuzhev as he envisions Catherine succeeding Elizabeth instead of Peter (just as Elizabeth herself usurped the throne from other heirs). War with Prussia takes Egor to the front, and as construction on the Empress' Winter Palace proceeds at a glacial pace, the court waits to see how, and to whom, the balance of power will shift. All this watchful waiting saps the novel of drama. Historically brilliant and erudite, Catherine comes off as a passive and needy whiner, dependent on others to mediate for her. Varvara is such a covert operator that her personality never emerges. Less a novel than a 400-plus-page prologue to an anticipated sequel.
Donna Rifkind
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
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780553808124
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/10/2012
  • Pages: 464
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Eva Stachniak was born in Wrocław, Poland. She moved 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 Books in Canada First Novel Award in 2000. She is also the author of Garden of Venus, which has been translated into seven languages. She lives in Toronto, where she is at work on her next novel about Catherine the Great, which Bantam Books will publish.
Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

One

I could have warned her when she arrived in Russia, this petty German princess from Zerbst, a town no bigger than St. Petersburg’s Summer Garden, this frail girl who would become Catherine.

This court is a new world to you, I could have said to her, a slippery ground. Do not be deceived by tender looks and flattering words, promises of splendor and triumph. This place is where hopes shrivel and die. This is where dreams turn to ashes.

She has charmed you already, our Empress. With her simplicity, the gentle touch of her hand, the tears she dried from her eyes at her first sight of you. With the vivacity of her speech and gestures, her brisk impatience with etiquette. How kind and frank Empress Elizabeth Petrovna is, you have said. Others have, too. Many others. But frankness can be a mask, a disguise, as her predecessor has learned far too late.

Three years ago our bewitching Empress was but a maiden princess at the court of Ivan VI, the baby Emperor, and his Regent Mother. There had been a fiancé lost to smallpox, there had been other prospects derailed by political intrigues until everyone believed that, at thirty-­two and without a husband, the youngest daughter of Peter the Great had missed her chance at the throne. They all thought Elizabeth Petrovna flippant and flighty then, entangled in the intricacies of her dancing steps and the cut of her ball dresses—­all but a handful who kept their eyes opened wide, who gambled on the power of her father’s blood.

The French call her “Elizabeth the Merciful.” For the day before she stole the throne of Russia from Ivan VI, she swore on the icon of St. Nicholas the Maker of Miracles that no one under her rule would ever be put to death. True to her word, on the day of the coup, she stopped the Palace Guards from slashing Ivan’s infant throat. She plucked the wailing baby Emperor from his crib and kissed his rosy cheeks before she handed him back to his mother and packed them both off to live in prison.

She likes when we repeat that no head has been cut off since the day she took power but forbids us to mention the tongues and ears. Or the backs torn to meaty shreds by the knout. Or the prisoners nailed to a board and thrown into a freezing river. Mercy, too, knows how to deceive.

Here in the Russian court, I could have warned the pretty newcomer from Zerbst, life is a game and every player is cheating. Everyone watches everyone else. There is no room in this palace where you can be truly alone. Behind these walls there are corridors, a whole maze of them. For those who know, secret passages allow access where none is suspected. Panels open, bookcases move, sounds travel through hidden pipes. Every word you say may be repeated and used against you. Every friend you trust may betray you.

Your trunks will be searched. Double bottoms and hollowed books will not hold their secrets for long. Your letters will be copied before they are sent on their way. When your servant complains that an intimate piece of your clothing is missing, it may be because your scent is preserved in a corked bottle for the time when a hound is sent to sniff out your presence.

Keep your hands on your pockets. Learn the art of deception. When you are questioned, even in jest, even in passing, you have mere seconds to hide your thoughts, to split your soul and conceal what you do not want known. The eyes and ears of an inquisitor have no equals.

Listen to me.

I know.

The one you do not suspect is the most dangerous of spies.

As soon as she seized the throne of Russia, Empress Elizabeth made no secret of her resolve to rule alone, without a royal husband. Since she would have no children to succeed her, she sent for her sister’s orphaned son, Karl Peter Ulrich, the Duke of Holstein. When the young Duke was brought to her, lanky and bone-­thin, his eyes bloodshot with exhaustion after the long journey, she pressed him to her heaving bosom. “The blood of the Romanovs,” she announced, as he stiffened in her arms. “The grandson of Peter the Great.” She presided over his conversion to the Orthodox faith, renamed him Peter Fyodorovich, and made him the Crown Prince. He was fourteen years old. She didn’t ask him if he wished to live with her. She didn’t ask him if he wanted to rule Russia one day. Now, right after his fifteenth birthday, she didn’t ask him if he wanted a bride.

Princess Sophie Fredrika Auguste Anhalt-­Zerbst. It was her portrait that arrived first, and I recall the grand moment of its unveiling. Portraits of this kind are not meant to render a likeness, but to entice.

“Her?” I heard Chancellor Bestuzhev say when the Empress mentioned Sophie for the first time. “But why her?” The Chancellor mentioned the need of crafty ties, and hedging one’s bets. Europe required a careful balance of power, he cautioned. The Prussians were growing too strong as it was. “Your Highness should consider a Saxon princess.”

The Empress stifled a yawn.

“I’ve not decided anything yet,” Elizabeth told him. Her nephew Peter was sitting at her feet, his long white fingers turning the turquoise ring around, as if he were tightening a screw.

In the weeks that followed I heard Sophie’s father referred to as a prince of quite exceptional imbecility, a Prussian general not able to control his foolhardy wife for whom the shabby Court of Brunswick had become the measure of all grandeur. The Anhalt-­Zerbsts were well connected but poor, shamelessly clamoring for Empress Elizabeth’s attention, reminding her that she once almost married one of them, this tenuous link to Russia their only real hope of attaining significance.

When a footman parted the red velvet curtain, we saw a portrait of a slim and graceful figure standing by the mantel, a girl of fourteen, summoned from her studies. We saw the pale-­green bodice of her gown, the dainty hands folded on her stomach. Whatever rumors may have reached us, Princess Sophie was not a cripple. No childhood illness had deformed her spine. There was an air of lightness around her; she seemed on the verge of breaking into a cheerful dance. Her chin was pointed, her lips small but shapely. Not quite pretty but fresh and playful, like a kitten watching a ball of yarn unfurl. The painter made sure we would not miss the exquisite pallor of her complexion, the softness of her eyes, the blue flecks of her pupils so striking a contrast to her raven-­black hair. Nor could we overlook her ardent will to please.

Murmurs, hesitant and vague, filled the room. Courtiers’ words mumbled and slurred so praise could still be retracted, blame turned into a veiled compliment. The art of deception, I thought, the eyespots on a butterfly’s wing flickering for a lifesaving second. Grasshoppers that change their color with the seasons to match the fading leaves.

The grand gentlemen and ladies of the court were still looking at the portrait, but I knew there was something far more important to watch. The face of the Empress of Russia taking her first measure of this princess child who, if she willed it, would become her nephew’s bride. The face I had learned to read.

There was a sigh, a slight twitch of Elizabeth Petrovna’s lower lip. A moment of pensiveness, the same that descended upon her before the time of prayers. A tear slowly rolling down her rouged cheek.

My eyes returned to the portrait, and I knew what the Empress had perceived. In the painted features there was a slight but unmistakable hint of manliness, a distant echo of another, older face. The fiancé long dead. A memory that lingered and still moved her to tears.

“Lord be merciful. . . .”

When I heard the Empress of All the Russias whisper the prayer for the departed souls, I knew the Anhalt-­Zerbsts had scored their first victory.

The chorus of voices rose, still hesitant, still unsure. No courtier wanted to risk Elizabeth’s wrath. Like me, they had seen objects flung at anyone near her, a powder box exploding in a cloud of white dust, a silver statue of Amor and Psyche making a jagged dent in the floor. Like me, they had seen the quivering stump inside a mouth from which the tongue had been cut.

“Her dress is green,” the Grand Duke Peter said. In German he drew out the vowels in an almost musical manner. It was only in Russian that he sounded awkward and harsh.

All eyes turned to him.

The Duke himself was dressed in a green velvet suit, embroidered with gold. At that time his face was not yet marred by smallpox. It was lean and pale but not unpleasant. The day before I had seen him stare at his hand, examining each finger as if it held some mystery worth pondering.

“What do you think, Peter?” Elizabeth asked the Grand Duke. I watched her smooth the sleeve of her dress, the rich burgundy ­brocade gown, play with the pearls that adorned it. “Does she look ­anything like this picture, Peter?”

“This is a good likeness,” the Grand Duke said. “This is how I remember my cousin Sophie.”

“Your second cousin, Peter.”

“My second cousin,” he agreed. “She is not a cripple.”

“Who said she was a cripple?”

“I don’t remember.”

“Who told you she was a cripple, Peter?”

“I don’t remember. My Blackamoor heard it. But it’s not true. Sophie is very strong. In Eutin, she outran me every time we raced in the garden.”

“Such display of vigor might not be such a good sign, Your Highness,” Chancellor Bestuzhev remarked.

I looked at him. At the gray powdered curls of his wig, the bushy eyebrows, the soft lines of his smooth face. His velvet jacket was new, I noted, smartly cut, becoming. It was the color of dry blood. A miniature portrait of the Empress was pinned to his chest. More than once, I had seen the Chancellor leave Elizabeth’s bedroom at dawn, his clothes rumpled, buttons undone, embers flickering in his black eyes.

A slippery eel? An old fox?

Had he missed what I had just seen? Was he still hoping the Empress had not set her mind on Sophie?

“Why not, my dear count?” Her Majesty frowned.

“Strong legs? A pointed chin? Women like that tend to be bossy. I’ve formed this opinion based on significant personal experience, Your Highness,” Chancellor Bestuzhev continued, with a gracious bow. A slight titter traveled through the back of the room. The Chancellor’s wife, known for her frequent storms of rage, had been endowed with a pointed chin.

Like an actor contemplating his next triumph, Bestuzhev added, “Experience I’d be pleased to tell Your Highness about at another, more opportune, time.”

The Empress turned away from him.

“I’ve decided to invite Princess Sophie here,” she said. “With her mother. Nothing official. The Anhalt-­Zerbsts have received enough favors from me to show their gratitude.”

I could see shoulders dropping in relief. Courtiers hurried to express their agreement, to offer reasons why they thought the Empress had made an excellent choice.

She was very cheerful that day. The embroidered trim of her gown shimmered as she moved, and I remember wondering who would get it, for the Empress never wore the same dress twice.

The portrait of the little German Princess with an eager smile was moved aside. Stretching on the daybed the footmen had fetched for her, Empress Elizabeth ordered Count Razumovsky to sing. There was no impatience on her face when he plucked the strings of his favorite bandura to tune it. She didn’t even scold the Grand Duke when he stuck his thumb in his mouth, probing his gums. A week before, he had lost another rotting tooth.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 60 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(19)

4 Star

(26)

3 Star

(10)

2 Star

(1)

1 Star

(4)

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
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 60 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 24, 2012

    a prettily painted glass bead marketed and hyped as a genuine gem of a novel...

    Closing my borrowed copy of The Winter Palace early this morning, I could not help but feel I was holding a prettily painted glass bead marketed and hyped as a genuine gem of a novel. While the reader is promised and enticed by a “keyhole” view of the 18th century Russian court, the splendor is soon overshadowed and left this reviewer shaking her head in bewilderment and frustration. Although, the attention to historical detail is impressive and Ms. Stachniak has a true talent to capture the grandeur of the era with her meticulous elements; sadly those alone could not prevent the chips and peeling later revealed by: underdeveloped characterization, unexpected vulgar language, repetitive storytelling, weak foreshadowing, and oddly out of place Victorian to Modern language that jarred this reviewer out of a couple chapters. Add to this, the irksome voice of a narrator that mimicked a noisy one-noted bird that I wished would have been silenced by a covered cage or a well placed shoe.

    If the potential reader is seeking a novel that keeps an even balance of education and entertainment on all aspects and viewpoints of 18th century Russia, you may be slightly disappointed. While the novel supplies only the basic facts of Catherine the Great’s life at the Winter Palace it focuses more on her intimate life and the drama of those of the court, that may leave the reader wondering what genre or audience the author was really striving for. With all of the displayed private sordid details that unfortunately borderlines on a cheap bodice ripper, it can get overwhelming and another narration would have been appreciated to break up the monotony of the numerous scandalous encounters. While The Winter Palace focuses more on the elite and powerful, the poor serve as a limited background-that leaves much to be desired and explored. In the end, I did not exactly come away wanting to read any type of sequel but it did spark an interest of learning all I can about Russian rulers, superstitions, and history.

    17 out of 18 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 26, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Could have been so much more!

    [b]The Winter Palace: A Novel of Catherine the Great[/b] by Eva Stachniak (¿¿¿-barely)

    More than anything else I hate to see a truly gifted writer fail to achieve potential. To succeed in crafting wonderful prose, creating an enveloping atmosphere, only then to fail when history itself has given you the very plot and characters you need spin out your tale in a stunning coup de grace!

    Eva Stachniak chose an interesting, completely fictional narrator, which does allow her interesting roving viewpoints throughout the palace. Her narrator is the orphaned daughter of the bookbinder to the Empress Elizabeth I of Russia, whom he begged to care for the girl in the event of his death. Upon that event she ends up in various lowly positions in the court, is made a mistress and spy of the Chancellor of Russia and begins her rise to fame. The author uses her considerable talents to create an ambience of espionage, sumptuous feasts, decadent clothing, and furtive love affairs, all of which the Russian courts of the age were well known for.

    There is no “author’s note” attached to the book, other than one which states that this is a work of fiction. So why attach the subtitle “A novel of Catherine the Great” to the book? To serious readers of historical fiction such a note is a tag denoting a work which is seriously researched and essentially a work “biographical fiction”. Catherine is not even the major character in the book-Elizabeth is. Catherine comes to Elizabeth’s court as a young bride to Elizabeth’s heir, her nephew, Peter, and she and the narrator, Varvara, form an uneasy friendship, but Elizabeth remains that dominante force in the novel.

    Some historical elements of the novel, such as Elizabeth’s relationships with Peter and Catherine’s children (and their paternity), the access that Elizabeth allowed Catherine to her children, and Peter’s character were fairly well portrayed. However, I felt that she grossly missed the mark in her portrayals of Elizabeth and Catherine. Elizabeth is portrayed as a completely debauched woman. There is no doubt that she loved parties and beautiful things, but she ruled Russia for twenty years and was very much the daughter of Peter the Great, continuing many of the positive things which he began, none of which comes across in this novel at all. Due to it’s subtitle, you feel like you are supposed to be focusing your attentions on Catherine, but so much attention is paid to Elizabeth that I couldn’t help but feel dissatisfied that her character was not fully developed and that it was so one-sided and unfairly portrayed. She was a woman of many talents who made many contributions to Russia during her reign. This novel ends shortly after the death of Elizabeth and Catherine’s seizure of power. Eva Stachniak is working on a sequel, continuing the reign of Catherine, as she becomes Catherine the Great. I sure hope she focuses on something other than the twenty something lovers that Catherine cycled through her bed in her lifetime. This could have been a wonderful book about two very strong empresses and a narrator who fought her way up from nothing. Instead it felt like two debauched empresses and an abused orphan-made-whore swimming through the mire that was imperial Russia.

    This one barely merits three stars from me, and that only because Eva Stachniak writes some lovely atmospheric prose, and while she often fails to develop her characters, she does perfectly capture their per

    9 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 1, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Palace Intrigue at Its Finest

    Most people are aware of Catherine the Great as one of Russia's outstanding monarchs, but have no idea of the difficulties she went through to obtain the crown. In this excellent novel, once she marries Peter III, the heir to the throne, the young Catherine is kept in her place by the domineering Empress Elizabeth, her self-absorbed husband, and ambitious and conniving courtiers. Frustrated by being ignored and humiliated, she learns to become skilled at intrigue and conspiracy in order to survive and ultimately prevail. The story is told from the perspective of her trusted servant and spy Barbara, whose own life is inevitably impacted by the constant stress of trying to survive in the dangerous Russian court. The novel tells a great story, and the author is working on a sequel, which I can't wait to read.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2012

    Goldenash

    Leaders den.

    1 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2012

    The only disappointment was that it ended. Looking forward to t

    The only disappointment was that it ended. Looking forward to the next book!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2012

    You get a glimpse at the young Catherine the Great, but it's re

    You get a glimpse at the young Catherine the Great, but it's really a story about the lady's maid, Barbara, who is resourceful, flexible in her allegiances and willing to spy for whoever seems to hold the most political clout at any given moment. The chilly Russian atmosphere is perfectly enthralling and the writing is very good.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 1, 2012

    Solid Historical Fiction

    I enjoyed this book and am looking forward to the second in the series. The book is the story of the journey of Catherine the Great from a young, naive princess to her coronation told through the eyes of her servant/spy. The story had some slow segments, but also had exciting elements.....a good wintertime read. I recommend this book to lovers of historical fiction.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2012

    Great to read

    The vivid tale of Russia and the Empire

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 25, 2014

    enjoyable, if you enjoy this type of genre

    Insight into life in Catherine's court intertwined with an interesting story

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2014

    westcoast reader

    I really enjoyed this fiction based on fact. Easy interesting read. Characters well developed. Constant espionage - what times these must have been!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 25, 2013

    fun fiction with a load of history thrown in

    Amazing what has gone on throughout history to bring people to the throne and of again. It definitely kept my interest and can't wait to read Eva Stachniak's next book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 13, 2013

    WONDERFUL BOOK!!

    This story is very easy to fall into and is beautifully written. Anyone who loves history will love this book. I can't wait for Eva's next book on the life of Catherine the Great to come out in March 2014!!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2013

    Good story, not quite finished.

    Still reading this story about the secrets, tattling, and scandal. Hard to put down, but at times a little slow. But an interesting read that will take me to researching characters in this book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 24, 2013

    Best read in a long while!!

    This book is completely engrossing. It spins a tale of intrigue and humanity and history in a lovely setting. It is compelling, well written, intelligent and still a page turner! I am a voracious reader. Everything from fantasy to history to science fiction and everything in between, and this the best book I have read in ages!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 24, 2013

    Uneven Reading

    This story starts off very interesting but as the story drags on it loses it's punch. I was ready for it to end about 100 pages sooner.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 24, 2013

    Loved It!!!

    Wonderful story,interesting characters,a tad slow in spots but I really enjoyed this one and can't wait for the next.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2013

    Highly recommended

    Totally fascinating glimpse into Russian history with all of its palace intrigues. For anyone interested in historic novels this is a must read! Look forward to future book by Eva Stachniak.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 24, 2013

    Highly recommended -historical content informing

    I love historical novels. When you separate the fiction from the fact and see all the factual references used, you come up with a great way to learn history. If you love historical novels you will love this one.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2013

    Loved it!

    Kept me interested . Great twist at the end.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2013

    Captivating & unexpected

    Though a work of fiction, the author's considerable research is evident in the persons, events, and intrigues described from an unexpected viewpoint. Minor details about clothes, rooms, and conversations made this history real and enjoyable. Four stars instead of five for what I felt was an abrupt ending, but I look forward to the sequel.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 60 Customer Reviews

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