"The Imperial Wife is a smart, engaging novel that parallels two fascinating worlds and two singular women. Irina Reyn writes beautifully of immigrants, art and the vagaries of love".
--Jess Walter, National Book Award finalist and author of the New York Times bestseller, Beautiful Ruins
Two women's lives collide when a priceless Russian artifact comes to light.
Tanya Kagan, a rising specialist in Russian art at a top New York auction house, is trying to entice Russia's wealthy oligarchs to bid on the biggest sale of her career, The Order of Saint Catherine, while making sense of the sudden and unexplained departure of her husband.
As questions arise over the provenance of the Order and auction fever kicks in, Reyn takes us into the world of Catherine the Great, the infamous 18th-century empress who may have owned the priceless artifact, and who it turns out faced many of the same issues Tanya wrestles with in her own life.
Suspenseful and beautifully written, The Imperial Wife asks whether we view female ambition any differently today than we did in the past. Can a contemporary marriage withstand an “Imperial Wife”?
The Imperial Wife follows two stories - one of modern Russian immigrant Tanya, and the other of Catherine the Great famous empress of Russia. I feel like these two stories were supposed to be more related than they I found them to be. Instead they came across as two stories that just happen to be told at the same time.
Of the two stories, I found Catherine's to be much more interesting. In all fairness, her life has always fascinated me and I may be a little more biased in that direction to start with. Catherine's story was not complete, but ends as she takes control of Russia. It skips over some her of life, but hits on some very interesting point of time as she adapted to her new life in the Russian court. I loved every page of it.
Tanya's story on the other hand just wasn't is interesting to me. I found myself wanting to rush through it to get to Catherine's. There are some very interesting pieces to her story, and her Russian clients were one of them. However, the relationship with her husband just didn't seem to justify her response in the end. In fact, the whole ending of her story just seemed off to me. I did enjoy the stories of her as a child, growing up and learning about America for the first time, trying to adapt to a new culture - much like Catherine did, and maybe this is why I enjoyed this aspect so much.
Well written, and well researched. I had a hard time connecting to Tanya's story, but with the level of writing done by the author, I'm sure other's will be able to connect very well.
*This book was received in exchange for an honest review*