Carol's Reviews > The Winter Palace: A Novel of Catherine the Great

The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak
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's review
Aug 28, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: 2011, historical-fiction
Read from August 28 to September 10, 2011

This is a very engrossing and exciting historical fiction read set in the 1700's in Russia. As `The Winter Palace' by Eva Straniak opens in 1743, we meet the young girl, Varvara or Barbara and her father, a Polish bookbinder. And we learn the story of how she became a "tongue" or spy for the Chancellor of Russia and later for Empress `Elizabeth the Merciful'. Since Varvara had lost her mother earlier and her father was worried about what would become of if he died, her father slowly worked his way into the graces of Empress Elizabeth. He requested that she take care of his child if he died and the Empress agreed.

The Russian palaces were built for intrigue and spying with secret chambers, hidden hallways and tiny crannies to squeeze into. Varvara is determined not to be stuck sewing, a skill that she has no talent for, so she works hers way into something more important and is recruited by the Chancellor who puts her through a spy training school with an emphasis on noticing detail and not trusting anyone, even the Chancellor. She is later assigned to be a spy on the German Princess Sophie who would later become Catherine the Great. A great friendship forms between Varvara and Sophie, but can Varvara trust this girl of fourteen.

From the page one, I did not want to lay this book down. Eva Stachniak writes with clarity and keeps you very interested until the last page. You get a real feel for the amount, methods and preciseness of the spying in the palaces. I really cared about Varvara and admired her independence and determination. The book ends before the historic story has closed. The author is currently working on a book about Catherine the Great that will come out soon. I definitely want to read that one and I hope that there will be more about Varvara in it.

I learned about food in the courts and elsewhere, the dress of the commoners and the royalty, the constant gossip, extravagance of clothing and jewels that Empress Elizabeth lived with. Also what the Grand Duke was like, physically, his manner and his likes and dislikes. He was to be Catherine the great's betrothed and the other men in Catherine's life.

All historical fiction fans need to read this book. It will take you inside the life of the palaces in the 1740 to 1764 in Russia. You can smell the treachery, the heartache of love, disappointments, betrayals and opulence of court living.

I received this book from Amazon's Vine program but that in no way influenced my review of this book.

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Reading Progress

09/04/2011 page 30
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Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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message 1: by Eva (new)

Eva Stachniak Thank you, Carol, for this lovely review. If you want to read more about The Winter Palace, please check out:
With best wishes

Carol Thank you, I checked out all of the sites. I had the same golden book dictionary when I was growing up. Even though I already knew English, I loved the books so much!.

My husband is from Taiwan and he has a well worn copy of 'Far East Everyday English-Chinese Dictionary". It has 1,426 pages that with many entries starred or underlined. But I am positive that it was not as much fun as the Golden Book Dictionary.


message 3: by Eva (new)

Eva Stachniak Weren't these books wonderful? So colourful, so full of magic.
What fond memories these are.
Take care

Carol Loved them so much. Looking forward to your next book in the series.


message 5: by Eva (new)

Eva Stachniak I'll make sure you know when the next book is closer to completion.
All the best

Carol Thank you,

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