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Staff Picks Category: Intrigue

Tsarina by Ellen Alpsten []



Catherine Alexeyevna (Catherine I) was the second wife of Peter the Great, a woman who progressed from humble origins as a serf to Empress of all the Russias in her short life. The first woman to rule Russia in her own right, she was by the side of the man whose legacy of modernizing Russia in the early 18th century is well-documented in popular culture. Lesser known is the sometimes bloody story of the woman who spent more than twenty years coddling, supporting, and challenging him. Ellen Alpsten’s debut novel relates a compelling if unverified story of Catherine’s (then known as Marta) early years before she entered Peter’s orbit and became his companion and, later, wife. Catherine bore him twelve children, only two of whom lived to adulthood. She traveled with him to the front in his various wars over many years. She was a constant in his life through successes, failures, triumphs, disappointments, and numerous mistresses. She was the best thing that ever happened to him, and the one person who could soothe his rages and return him to reason. Illuminating the realities of life in premodern Russia and the growth and changes brought about in the Petrine Era, It’s a fascinating and extraordinary ride from slavery to royalty for an incredible woman.

“Fiction about real people” is a great genre for readers who like history and also like to listen in on conversations. Offer this to fans of historical fiction, Russia, political intrigue, and powerful women.

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