Just when I’d begun to wonder if there ever would be a second book of Catherine The Great, it finally arrived. EMPRESS OF THE NIGHT, by Eva Stachniak, impresses with more than just a lovely cover. I loved it!
The novel opens with the demise of the great Empress. Empress Catherine is in the throws of death. It’s actually a bit disturbing. I’m sure it’s meant to be.
THE WINTER PALACE is the first novel Eva Stachniak wrote about Catherine The Great. The story was told from the point of view of her servant. And the story actually stopped right at that pivotal point when Catherine takes up the throne. EMPRESS OF THE NIGHT is told totally through the voice of the Empress, herself.
Anyone with any knowledge whatsoever about Catherine will tell you she led a scandalous life full of lovers and excess. So that part of this novel is certainly no secret. But hearing it come from the Empress herself is another story. Told in a no nonsense way, EMPRESS OF THE NIGHT shows you the life of a woman torn from her family as a child, forced to marry a simpleton with a title, and then maks the best of it for both her own self and the lives of her fellow countrymen and women. She was notorious, tough-minded, and strong. She was also weak when it came to the men in her life. She went through many “favorites.” But one stands out above all others.
Yes, she had jewels, and servants, and art work. She had sumptuous palaces. Her family enjoyed a life of luxury. Yet all of them fought and suffered in many ways. Her oldest son Paul was weak and undeserving yet he went on to rule after her death. She would have risen from the grave to dethrone him if humanly possible. But in the end Catherine The Great died just like all other mortals. I am convinced she suffered from diabetes for years. In the end it was the stroke that did her in.
I can’t help but think how lucky we are in this century. We have such great medical services. If you had cataracts in the 1700’s you slowly went blind. If you had diabetes they bled you and did not know what it was. And your teeth just went bad and turned black and either fell out or were pulled. And to think Catherine was still entertaining a young lover in her sixties. Shocking.
Eva Stachniak has certainly done her research! I kept referring back to my copy of Robert Massie’s CATHERINE THE GREAT. I kept finding fact after fact that was true. I loved how the author incorporated so much fact into her novel. It’s a great novel. I truly loved it. I think it surpasses THE WINTER PALACE.
A novel of Russia is appropriate and quite timely. We’ve just enjoyed the thrilling escapades of the winter olympics. And now Russia is in the news each and every night.
Thanks go out to my publishing friends at Bantam Books, a division of Random House, for the beautiful finished book.