Eva Stachniak was born in Wrocław, Poland, and came to Canada in 1981. She has been a radio broadcaster and college English and Humanities lecturer. Her debut novel, Necessary Lies, won the Amazon.com/Books in Canada First Novel Award, and her second novel, Garden of Venus, has been translated into seven languages. Her third novel, The Winter Palace, was published in January of 2012 in Canada (Doubleday), US (Bantam) and the UK (Transworld). She lives in Toronto, where she is working on her second historical novel about Catherine the Great.
Ah, the Romanovs! Researching them was such a treat. To my initial surprise, Empress Elizabeth Pietrovna, the Russian Tsarina who brought Catherine to Russia to marry her nephew, proved to be as fascinating as Catherine herself.
A daughter of Peter the Great and his peasant wife who ruled Russia briefly as Catherine I, Elizabeth was a passionate woman filled with contradictions. I loved to evoke her presence in The Winter Palace: Elizabeth sending for the choicest morsels to the palace kitchens, having her heels scratched and her feet massaged by her attendants, listening to folk tales and gossip, reaching for any man she fancied. And—this should not be overlooked—at the same time securing for her beloved Russia a period of growth and prosperity only Catherine, herself, would rival.
Elizabeth must have made a tremendous impression on Catherine, for even though Catherine bitterly complained against the empress when she was the Grand Duchess, she ended up imitating her predecessor’s ways. Like Elizabeth, Catherine courted the palace guards, and let them believe they alone raised her to the position of empress. Like Elizabeth, Catherine summoned petty German princesses to Russia as prospective brides for her son, raised her grandsons as if they were her own children, and as she grew older, took progressively younger lovers. She may have sneered at Elizabeth’s passion for 22 year old Ivan Shuvalov, but when Catherine turned 60 herself, Platon Zubov—her dashing lover—was 20 years old.
I have one copy of The Winter Palace available for a reader with a US address. Fill out the form below by noon on Wednesday, February 1st.