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#386 ~ The Winter Palace

The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak

Published by: Random House

Published on: January 10, 2012

Page Count: 464

Genre: Historical Fiction

My Reading Format: eGalley downloaded from NetGalley

Available Formats: Hardcover and eBook

Book Tour: I am pleased to be Eva Stachniak’s tour host today. Today is an extra special day because The Winter Palace is officially published today. Please read my review and be sure to come back on Thursday for a guest post from the author about the perils of researching too much. I will also have a copy of the book to giveaway.  In the meantime, you can also view the book trailer at the end of my review.


My Review

Barbara’s father is an immigrant book binder. He may not be a rich man, but he is the best at what he does. It is his skill and dedication that first catch the eye of Empress Elizabeth. Because of his work for her, he is able to request a place for Barbara in her court should anything ever happen to him. Too soon, Barbara’s father does pass away. That promise from the Empress does not immediately pave her way to a better life. Quite the contrary. She is at a disadvantage because of her background. It is her intelligence that brings her our of her initial miserable servitude. Count Bestuzhev, always vying for favor, discovers how clever she is. It is he who teaches her how to spy effectively to become one of Empress Elizabeth’s most trusted tongues. His other introductions to court life were less desirable, but Barbara’s downfall was ignoring his most valuable advice.

There is nothing more intriguing, especially at a safe distance, than a royal court in turmoil. The Winter Palace brings this non stop tumult directly to the reader. Empress Elizabeth forcibly took over power from the infant Ivan VI. She intentionally has no children of her own and brings a nephew in to be her heir. Her nephew Peter is an odd young man, putting his ascension in jeopardy. It is most important to Elizabeth to find a suitable wife for him, one who will bare him many heirs. When she joins Elizabeth’s court, Barbara takes it upon herself to help Catherine. By acting on her own, she puts her place in the Winter Palace in jeopardy, but that isn’t the only consequence. In the end, it will cost her so much more.

I became very much engaged in Barbara’s story. She herself makes some cruel decisions, but mainly in her youth. For the most part, she acts as she does to keep those she loves safe. The rest of the characters are not always so noble. Elizabeth lived the life of one who constantly has to remain on guard. Overthrowing the government did not bring security and no one is too precious not to willfully sacrifice when needed. She lived up to her promise not to execute her subjects, but she found much worse ways to punish those who crossed her. Count Bestuzhev was the most distasteful character of all. His life was entirely about getting ahead and using everyone he can in every way he can. He reminded me a great deal of Thomas Howard with a couple extra helpings of depravity. Young Catherine is new to everything in Russia. She couldn’t afford to be naive and impressionable long. She, too, has a role to play and a place to secure.

Although this book is subtitled A Novel of Catherine the Great, it was aptly named. This book is about the comings and goings of the Winter Palace leading up to the end of Empress Elizabeth’s reign. Certainly Catherine is there and is central to Barbara’s story, but what connects the beginning to the end isn’t the emerging monarch. It’s the palace in which Barbara interacts with the every shifting powers that be that define the story.

The Winter Palace was my introduction to Russian historical fiction and I enjoyed my time there. In many ways, the Russian court makes Henry VIII’s seem forgiving and peaceful. Not only did this book inspire me to learn more about Catherine the Great, I thought the ending of this book was just perfect. I cared for Barbara and I was so pleased with the life she went on to have. Given the title and the setting of this novel, it makes an excellent selection for this time of year.

15 Comments

  • At 2012.01.10 12:12, Kailana said:

    I really want to read this book. I have it on my TBR pile, but I haven’t got around to it yet…

    • At 2012.01.10 23:36, Literate Housewife said:

      I think you’ll enjoy it when you get the chance. If you have an eGalley, I did have a little difficulty with the formatting. I wish I could have read it in print. eGalleys aren’t always quite there yet – at least for me.

    • At 2012.01.10 14:41, Leah said:

      I absolutely cannot wait to get my hands on a copy of this book!!

      • At 2012.01.10 23:38, Literate Housewife said:

        Thanks for stopping by. Please come back on Thursday for a chance to win a copy. 🙂

      • At 2012.01.10 18:06, Emma @ Words And Peace said:

        congrats for being on the tour! I loved that book. here is my review: http://wordsandpeace.com/2011/11/18/81-review-the-winter-palace/

        Read more from Emma @ Words And Peace

        Book review: The Screwtape Letters

        The Screwtape Letters The Screwtape Letters has been waiting on my shelves for a while, plus it’s a classic, so this was a double good reason to read it soon. As I have already mentioned here ea[…]

        • At 2012.01.11 00:07, Literate Housewife said:

          Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your review. Interesting thoughts about the religious ceremonies.

        • At 2012.01.10 20:11, John said:

          Wow I like that trailer. Really good use of music and carefully chosen images. For more Russia reading, check out Tom Rob Smith’s novels. Here is a trailer for his book Agent 6.

        • At 2012.01.11 20:31, Anita said:

          I’ve heard good things about this book, but I am not a huge lover of historical fiction. Great review.

          • At 2012.01.12 11:20, Jack balloon said:

            Can’t wait to read this book. Historical fiction is my therapy: although I haven’t read any of Russia yet, I am eager to do so!

            • At 2012.01.13 12:09, Eva Stachniak said:

              Thank you Literate Housewife for hosting me on this blog tour! What a great blog and a great community of readers.
              I am grateful for all your wonderful comments.
              Please keep your fingers crossed for The Winter Palace.
              This writer needs your support!
              Eva

              • At 2012.01.13 22:25, bermudaonion (Kathy) said:

                I don’t read much historical fiction and really struggle with that time period, for some reason. I know it’s me since everyone else seems to love it.

                • At 2012.01.16 09:25, Beth F said:

                  You should read the Massie biography now. Stachniak did a great job capturing the complexities of the Russian court.

                  • At 2012.03.07 01:01, #409 ~ Enchantments said:

                    […] as The Winter Palace was my first adventure in Russia through Historical Fiction, Enchantments was my first Romanov […]

                    • At 2012.06.18 06:02, #434 ~ The Last Romanov said:

                      […] to them. I a’m loving getting lost in Russian, whether it be through historical fiction like The Winter Palace  and Enchantments or in contemporary fiction like A Partial History of Lost Causes. The Last […]

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