Posts Tagged ‘18th C’

Author: Eva Stachniak

Pub: Doubleday Canada, © 2012

440 pp.

Variously described as an historical novel, a saga, and an epic, this hefty book describes in amazing detail the eventual rise to power of Catherine the Great of Russia. The time is the mid-18th century, and the setting is St Petersburg, Russia. The Russian palaces, both Winter and Summer, are filled with “tongues”, who are members of the court who regularly spy on and report to rising courtiers as well as to the Emperor and/or Empress. Not much is secret in this society. There is a cast of characters listed at the end of the book. I suggest that you look at that before you start reading (I wish I had done so!) There are so many people and so many titles: Empress, Grand Duke, Grand Duchess, Princess, and more, including a British knight. It’s hard to keep them all straight, especially since all of them have nicknames (sometimes more than one!) which are liberally used throughout the story. The Poles who show up are renamed with Russian names. I hasten to add that this device really boosts the authenticity of the story. This novel is well worth your time, because it depicts a time and place not often encountered in fiction. Well written, and with a good story, this book will hold your attention. The descriptions of the glittering court life are so good, and the secret life of the spies and “tongues” is even more interesting. 8/10 on my personal scale.

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