There is nothing better than good historic fiction to sweep you away from everything that’s happening in the current world and immerse you. Tsarina, the debut novel from Ellen Alpsten did just that for me; vividly portraying the extraordinary life of Catherine I of Russia.
Let me point out, I am not talking about Catherine the Great; rather Catherine I was Empress of Russia over 50 years before Catherine the Great. One of the factors that makes the life of Catherine I so extraordinary is that she was born illegitimate, was a common serf and sold by her family into household labour at the age of 15. Yet what is so astounding is that her life has never been told – until now. And crikey – what a life it was.
Born Marta, her lover Peter the Great changed her name to Catherine. She bore him 13 children and after being his mistress for many years, she eventually became his second wife and then Empress of Russia .
In a cruel world where women were sold and passed around as sexual toys for men, Marta fights for respect and compassion; not just for herself but also for other women. I loved Marta for this as she was prepared to sacrifice all she held dear to ensure she and her friends were respected by the men they loved.
Many refer to Marta/Catherine’s story as a Cinderella story, but in my view this description is doing her a misjustice. Marta is a survivor with great determination and spirit. She is also very beautiful but I think the reason why the Tsar loved Marta above all his other women was because of her empathy, sense of humour and integrity. When she firsts meets Peter he is at his most vulnerable, yet she ignores that he is the Great Tsar or Russia and uses her wit and compassion to help him.
There are aspects of this book which I have to admit I found a tad shocking, especially the brutality, the treatment of women and the portrayal of Peter’s court. Believe me, I’m no prude, but crikey, they liked to party fuelled by drink and sex. I tell you, if your missing your Game of Thrones fix, read this book! 😉
This is a chunky novel rich in historic detail. For me I found this fascinating, especially as I love history and all the political intrigue that comes with it. It is so evident that Ellen Alpsten is passionate about vividly portraying Catherine as the powerful, intelligent and empathetic woman she was. It is clear from Alpsten’s writing that Catherine greatly influenced Peter and shaped history.
Tsarina is the ideal lockdown read as it will take you away from all the horrible things happening in the world today. It was only published a few days ago so you can read it now. 🙂
Thank you to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me to be part of the blog tour to publicise Tsarina. I loved being swept away in all the political intrigue, excitement and dangers of the Russian Court. To follow the blog tour please see below.
Happy reading everyone! 🙂