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The Winter Palace

The Winter Palace - Eva Stachniak The winter palace by Eva is an interesting and easy to read Novel and if you are somebody who does not like to get bogged down with historical dates and facts but like to learn a little of Russian royal courts, then this is the book for you, however if you are somebody who loves historical fiction with a capital L and want your novels to read like history books then you will not enjoy this book.

I picked this book up recently at an airport bookshop as the two books I had packed were heavy reading and I realised not very good holiday reads. After quickly scanning the blurb of this book I felt it would be just a nice easy read.

The story of the winter place is narrated by the orphaned daughter of the bookbinder to the Empress Elizabeth I of Russia, whom in the event of his death he had asked that she be cared for by the palace, Upon this event Barbara ends up in various positions in the court. She is eventually made a mistress and spy of the Chancellor of Russia and she spends her time spying on the Grand Duke and Princess Sophie. While spying on the Princess, Varenka(Barbara's name is changed to Valenka at the court) finds herself growing to like Princess Sophie and wanting to protect her. This story concentrates (very loosely) on the last half of Empress Elizabeth's reign and then the first part of Catherine the Great's life at court.

Firstly and very importantly this is not a novel about Catherine the Great, the story is told from the perspective of Barbara, or as she's known in Russia as Varenka, Some historical elements of the novel are well researched and written but there is a lot of important facts left out.

The author does however capture the atmosphere of the winter palace and the period in which the novel is written and I will certainly look out for other novels which deal with Catherine the Great's reign.
All in all an easy read, I would like the plot to have had a little more bite to it and the characters a little more historically correct. I think the author concentrated too much on the love life’s of these powerful women when there was so much more interesting historical information that would have been more educational for the reader.