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The Imperial Wife: A Novel Hardcover – July 19, 2016
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“Smart and engaging…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
“This intriguing novel carries thereader between modern-day Manhattan and Russia in the age of Catherine the Great. Prepare to be absorbed and transported.” ―Elin Hilderbrand, bestselling author of The Rumor
"The Russians are coming in this ingeniously structured novel that travels between a present-day art specialist handling the biggest sale of her career and the 18th-century court life of the woman who becomes Catherine the Great." ―O Magazine, Reading Room Top 10
"Dazzling andinsanely ambitious.” –Gary Shteyngart, New York Times bestselling author of The Russian Debutante's Handbook
"Reyn's mesmerizing new novel['s]...dual storylines are each intriguing, while the novel skips easily between past and present, leaving readers with more knowledge about Russia (imperial and presentday), visual art, auction houses and the lives of the very rich. But its greatest accomplishment is making the inner lives of two fascinating women known...As a fast-paced novel, it's a great read, but as a meditation on what it means to be woman, it's transcendent."
"If only we could meet our historical counterparts. Reyn does just that, aligning a Russian art specialist in contemporary New York and Catherine the Great. The dual narratives make for an imaginative, thrilling, and exquisite novel." –Kaui Hart Hemmings, New York Times bestselling author of The Descendants
"Reyn cleverly weaves Tanya's story around that of young Catherine's [Catherine the Great]. Both suffer because they possesscertain qualities―ambition, decisiveness, sangfroid―that society expects from powerful men but finds suspicious in women."
―Stephen Heyman, Vogue
"Two boss women living in very different time periodsin history―modern-day New York City and 18th-century Russia―are connected through the ages by their shared obsession with a priceless piece of royal bling."
“Imperial Wife trains its spotlight on powerful women, past and present…even though centuries separate their worlds, the two female protagonists find themselves in a similar difficult martial dynamic: Both women wrestle with having an ambitious nature,while being tied to expectations within the confines of marriage.” ―NPR
“An intricately plotted and engagingly written literary mystery.” ―Los Angeles Review of Books
"A cunning tale of ambition and art." ―The Toronto Star
"Irina Reyn writes splendidly. This book is full of brilliant observation and beautiful writing." ―Roxana Robinson, author of Sparta
"Irina Reyn's smart novel...seamlessly flits between the 20 yearsof Catherine, sometimes in a cold, friendless castle and Tanya, sometimes in acold, loveless city. Both women are stronger and smarter than they realize andboth are married to men who are anvils, not anchors."
―Jacqueline Cutler, NJ Star Ledger
"[Reyn] is a master of creating realistic and nuanced female characters." ―Shannon Reed, The Washington Post
"The parallels between theheroines are neat and unforced...if the clever Reyn convinces us to appreciatethe historical Catherine as a modern woman, she also encourages us tosecond-guess the thoroughly modern and undauntable Tanya." ―Bob Blaisdell, The Christian Science Monitor
"Reyn is a wonderful writer–witty and compassionate, lyrical and sharp–a deeply intelligent and expansive book. I loved it." –Molly Antopol, author of The UnAmericans, nominated for the National Book Award and finalist for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize
"Nothing less than masterful and reminiscent of Mantel's finest work, this is the most satisfying novel I've read in a long, long time." –Katie Crouch, New York Times bestselling author of Girls in Trucks and Abroad
"An insider's view of a world that few witness. In "The Imperial Wife," Tanya must try to placate two Russian oligarchs who are bidding on the rarest of items: a medallion that once belonged to Catherine the Great." ―Rege Behe, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
"An absorbing and ingeniously layered novel that seamlessly braids Russian royalty from queens to oligarchs with the darker truths of New York’s sparkling art auctions, it’s everything a great read should be―informative, insightful and enormously entertaining."―Carol Cassella, bestselling author of Oxygen and Gemini
"A marvelously engaging, affecting, and amusing novel." ―Phillip Lopate
"A twist at the end pulls the stories together in a satisfying manner. The stories of two eras and two marriages are related in evocative language steeped in keenly observed details." ―Kirkus
"With its sharp characterizations and unexpected twists, Reyn's novel keeps readers on their toes. Both women elicit compassion due to their position as outsiders, and their stories intertwine in playful and profound ways." ―Booklist
About the Author
IRINA REYN is the author of What Happened to Anna K: A Novel. She is also the editor of the anthology Living on the Edge of the World: New Jersey Writers Take on the Garden State. She has reviewed books for the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, The Forward, and other publications. Her fiction and nonfiction has appeared in One Story, Tin House, Town & Country Travel and Poets & Writers. She teaches fiction writing at the University of Pittsburgh.
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Top Customer Reviews
The story of Catherine the Great is told through the novel Tanya’s husband is famed for, so, one is a story of modern day and the other historical but told by one of the modern day characters – which is kind of meta. I enjoyed the little inside joke of the author naming a rich upper class character Edith Rhinelander-Jones (the maiden name of the famous writer Edith Wharton mixed with her mother’s maiden name. Some say her rich family is responsible for the phrase “keeping up with the Joneses’”). I also liked how she reused names in both stories – Sergei being the name of a lover in both time periods was a nice touch. It makes me wonder if there were other such clever jokes that I missed.
Overall the story was well written, the parts about Catherine the Great jumped from year to year and in the present from day to day. I would have liked more details filled in of Catherine the Great’s life since that is what drew me to the book, but it seems her story is to be told through its highlights and show the similar natures of her and Tanya. This made them kind of meld together in many ways – which was likely the point – but also made both women seem rather unlikeable. It wasn’t the drive they had in work or life or their dominant personalities, but rather that they were so busy breaking down any impediments to their goals that they seemed to crush everyone close to them in the process. The ending for Tanya was also a bit difficult to believe, but wrapped things up well. The book does a wonderful job of depicting Russia then and now, and the art world of today as well as touching on many broader subjects like the immigrant’s personal experience – both Catherine in Russia and Tanya in the U.S. – and relationship issues. An interesting and educational read, with a lighter fiction layer to it.
Disclaimer: I received an advanced ARC of this story from the publisher through Netgalley