I love historical novels and Eva Stachniak is like the Joseph Conrad of this genre. Her powerful sense of storytelling and vivid use of language are simply mesmerizing. Moreover, Beata Pozniak’s narration perfectly captures the exotic beauty of the special time and place of the Russian court. With so many colorful and complex characters in Winter Palace, the narrator provides a beautiful range of foreign accents (Polish, German, French & British) and unique intonation to each one to make this a truly authentic and unforgettable journey.
The clever invention of this novel is that it is told from the point of view of Barbara, a young girl, who arrives at the royal court as a lowly seamstress after the death of her parents. Her guile and ambition soon take her on a path to becoming a master spy with secrets that change the course of history. Since Barbara was born in Poland, Pozniak's portrayal of her with a slight Polish accent gives the character a wonderful resonance. Her hypnotic timbre was so engaging it pulled me into the imperial bedrooms of the Russian Winter Palace and dazzled me with the political intrigues of the Royal Court. I soon felt that I was, like Barbara, becoming a super spy. Thanks to the atmospheric narration I could not stop listening. With Stachniak’s innate sense of storytelling and Pozniak’s remarkable gift for character portrayal, I felt transported through the bitter Russian winter to the magnificent palace of Catherine. What a terrific ride!
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