The Winter Palace: A Novel of Catherine the Great
By Eva Stachniak
Bantam Books, 2012. 444 pgs. Historical Fiction
Left an orphan in an unfamiliar country, Barbara turns to a friend of her father’s for a way to support herself. Her new position is as an unskilled seamstress in the Russian court of Empress Elizabeth. But her aspirations are much higher and thanks to the education her father provided and her own quick wit she soon comes to the monarch’s attention and is taught to be a spy within the castle walls. Barbara’s future becomes unalterably connected to those of the royal family as she befriends Sophia, the young bride that will one day become Catherine the Great.
Historical detail and lots of soapy drama make this an easy recommendation to fans of Philippa Gregory or Hilary Mantel. I was a little disappointed in the story and felt it focused a lot more on Barbara and less on Catherine’s actual rise to the throne or her accomplishments once she took control. But it was still an entertaining dramatization of an interesting period in Russian history.