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Extended Audio Sample The Winter Palace Audiobook, by Eva Stachniak Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (3,527 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Eva Stachniak Narrator: Beata Pozniak Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Related: The Catherine the Great Series Release Date: January 2012 ISBN: 9780307966803
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Her name is Barbara—in Russian, Varvara. Nimble-witted and attentive, she’s allowed into the employ of the Empress Elizabeth, amid the glitter and cruelty of the world’s most eminent court. Under the tutelage of Count Bestuzhev, Chancellor and spymaster, Varvara will be educated in skills from lock picking to lovemaking, learning above all else to listen—and to wait for opportunity. That opportunity arrives in a slender young princess from Zerbst named Sophie, a playful teenager destined to become the indomitable Catherine the Great. Sophie’s destiny at court is to marry the Empress’s nephew, but she has other, loftier, more dangerous ambitions, and she proves to be more guileful than she first appears.

What Sophie needs is an insider at court, a loyal pair of eyes and ears who knows the traps, the conspiracies, and the treacheries that surround her. Varvara will become Sophie’s confidante—and together the two young women will rise to the pinnacle of absolute power. 

With dazzling details and intense drama, Eva Stachniak depicts Varvara’s secret alliance with Catherine as the princess grows into a legend—through an enforced marriage, illicit seductions, and, at last, the shocking coup to assume the throne of all of Russia. 

Impeccably researched and magnificently written, The Winter Palace is an irresistible peek through the keyhole of one of history’s grandest tales.

Download and start listening now!


Quotes & Awards

  • “At the same time baroque and intimate, worldly and domestic, wildly strange and soulfully familiar, The Winter Palace offers a flickering glimpse of history through the gauze of deft entertainment.”

    Washington Post

  • “A thrilling point of view…Readers are treated to a firsthand account of the young princess’s slow ascent to the throne, a path deliciously strewn with discarded lovers and sanguine court intrigues.”

    Minneapolis Star-Tribune

  • “[A] brilliant, bold historical novel…This superb biographical epic proves the Tudors don’t have a monopoly on marital scandal, royal intrigue, or feminine triumph.”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • “A wonderful novel, riven with intrigue and startling details, the sort to savour on a long winter evening.”

    Daily Telegraph (5 stars)

  • A 2012 Washington Post Notable Book for Fiction

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sarah | 2/20/2014

    " For review in an upcoming issue of Booklist. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jeanne | 2/14/2014

    " palace intrique, politics love and hate. it was a bit slow in the middle but a good read. i thought it would go more into catherines reign but it stopped early on. oh well, need to look up more about her. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Stephanie Jewett | 1/21/2014

    " I love learning history via fiction. I don't know much about Catherine the Great, but I now know a little more, and this book has led me to read up on her (just via Wikipedia for now, but it's a start). "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Judith | 1/17/2014

    " This was a fabulous look at life in the Palace as told through the eyes of a member of the Empress's staff. I almost felt like a vouiour peering into the secret lives in 18th century Russia. Wish I had paid better attention in College during Western Civilization classes. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Terry Maupin | 1/9/2014

    " Wanted more about Catherine after she came to power. A little disappointed. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kathy | 12/31/2013

    " Interesting to me because I haven't read much about Catherine. But I felt the pacing of the story was off somehow. I also would rather have read the story through Catherine's eyes rather than her lady in waiting. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Nancy | 12/14/2013

    " Long book that I listened to in the car. Good story about Russian, palace intrigue, and the hard life they had back then. A bit long "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Priscilla Melchior | 12/12/2013

    " Wonderful book, incredibly well-written. I wish it had been about 20 percent shorter, but fascinating nonetheless. I also wish it had not been subtitled "A novel of Catherine the Great." Though the book is about Catherine's rise to power it is far more focused on the court intrigue in which the protagonist, Varvara, plays a central role. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Patricia Cal | 9/30/2013

    " Another piece of history which grabs ahold of you, enveloping you in the secrecy of the Russian court. After reading many books on the Tudors, it is now time to catch up on the lives Catherine the Great and her court. This is a great lead in to the sequel. The next book will not come soon enough. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Dana | 6/21/2013

    " What a trip through the personal history of Catherine and now I MUST go to St. Petersburg! Fascinating details about a complex intelligent woman reflect her life and choices. Engagingly written, I was mesmerized. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sandra | 5/1/2013

    " A good read, but I would have enjoyed more detail on events in Russia at the time and less palace detail. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Joan | 3/9/2013

    " I enjoyed this book very much. I'll look for others by this author. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Beth | 3/8/2013

    " Fascinating look at the court intrigues under Empress Elizabeth of Russia. Well written, well-researched and well-representative of complex and labyrinthan Russian history. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Maureen Mcgarry zuppichini | 6/6/2012

    " love historical fiction - thought this book was excellent - looking forward to the sequel "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Sherry | 2/7/2012

    " A bit over simplified for me. Not really a new take on history but a re-telling from a new character. Kept wishing for something to surprise me. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Melissa | 1/23/2012

    " Loved this. Historical fiction at its finest. Lots of wonderful historical details and a superb story. Looking forward to the next installment on Catherine the Great. "

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About the Author
Author Eva StachniakEva Stachniak was born in Wroc³aw, Poland. She moved to Canada in 1981 and has worked for Radio Canada International and Sheridan College, where she taught English and humanities. Her debut novel, Necessary Lies, won the Books in Canada First Novel Award in 2000. Her first novel of Catherine the Great, The Winter Palace, was included in The Washington Post’s 2011 list of most notable fiction. Stachniak lives in Toronto, where she is at work on her next novel.