It’s been awhile since I’ve reviewed a book. I finished this gem a few days ago and knew I’d have to share!
The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak, Doubleday Canada, 2012. Historical Fiction.
The Winter Palace tells the story of a fictional young woman whose life becomes intricately tied to Catherine the Great and her fate. The book keeps its reader entranced page after page as Stachniak skillfully recreates eighteenth-century Russia.
The book follows Barbara (called Varvara in Russian) as she is faced with one obstacles after another, in her quest for security. She is given the opportunity to become a spy in the royal court, a position which she cautiously accepts. However, along the way she becomes intoxicated with the drama of the royal family and befriends the young Princess, future Catherine the Great. Her devotion to Catherine leads her down dangerous paths which could certainly be punishable by death if anyone were to find out. But in a court filled with spies, how can anyone keep a secret?
The story is rich with imagery which Stachniak skillfully paints for her reader. In beautiful prose, the places of Catherine the Great (including the Winter Palace) come alive with Stachniak’s words. Also skillfully created are the thought-provoking relations in which Barbara is a member. The one I found most interesting was Barbara’s position in Russian society as a Catholic Pole amidst devout Orthodox Russians.
This is historical fiction, so a reader may expect the author to be a bit lax on the historical accuracy. Any mistakes I found in this book did not seem to affect the overall flow of the story, and therefore, in this context, were quite inconsequential. In the middle of the story, there are a few moments when it seems to drag a bit, however the tale quickly recovers and re-engages the reader to the end.
There is some romance in the story (it would be impossible to have a book about Catherine the Great without romance), but overall it occurs more in the background of the tale. Overall, I feel this book is an excellent read for anyone who enjoys historical fiction, although lovers of Imperial Russian history will especially enjoy it.
A great read! I recommend reading it while curling up with some tea and a pumpkin spice sweet. Yes, I’ve got pumpkin on the brain
I hope you get a chance to read it! Leave me a comment on what you thought about it if you do
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